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Community Meetings Held to Discuss Health Care Study's Findings

The recent Healthcare Safety Net Report found that the number of uninsured and underinsured patients in San Diego is growing, and the high cost of living in San Diego is leading to serious staff short

The recently-released Healthcare Safety Net Report found some major red flags. There are growing numbers of patients without adequate health insurance, and less government funding to provide for them. County health experts say 30 percent of San Diegans have little or no health insurance. That’s some 900,000 people who are uninsured or underinsured. The new report, by an independent consultant, predicts that number will grow by 170,000 patients over the next 20 years. Another major concern highlighted in the report: inadequate staffing.

Over the next two decades, the report predicts a shortage of 7500 nurses and 2000 physicians countywide. And even with planned hospital expansions, it says the county will still be 150 hospital beds short. Unless action is taken, that will lead to big wait times at emergency rooms and community clinics.

Rene Santiago, County Health and Human Services: Not filling these needs can provide longer waiting times for the care, the access problems, like a lot of people needing to rely on the emergency departments for their basic and preventative care when they should be going to community clinics or neighborhood clinics. The study also indicates in some cases, the nursing shortage could affect what we call the throughput, of just having the right personnel in the right places.

Today, the Health and Human Services Agency held three community meetings to discuss the report’s findings. There are two more meetings tomorrow. After collecting public input, the agency will issue recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to help shore up the safety net.  The Board actually commissioned this study due to concern over UCSD’s plan to move its acute care beds and trauma center from Hillcrest to La Jolla by 2025. Ironically, the study concluded that move alone is not a major threat to patients in the Central City and South Bay. But some county supervisors question that finding, fearing the move could leave poor and uninsured south county residents without adequate trauma care.