In an op-ed published by The San Diego Union-Tribune, Christopher Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health, shares an opinion piece addressing the bottleneck throughout the healthcare system caused by the lack of behavioral health beds. 

We have many patients who have been in our hospitals more than 500 days because they have nowhere else to go. Our longest-term patient has been here for two and a half years. They are on a five-year waitlist for the state psychiatric hospital, but open beds for transfers are extremely rare, with priority given to state criminal patients over those at hospitals,” Van Gorder states.

The opinion piece discusses the challenges faced by hospitals like Scripps Health due to patients with severe behavioral health diagnoses who remain in acute care beds for extended periods due to the lack of appropriate facilities for their care. 

Van Gorder expresses his opposition to Assembly Bill 40, which proposes a statewide patient offload standard for ambulances, arguing that it would exacerbate existing bottlenecks and fail to address the root causes of the problem. 

The article highlights the financial strain on healthcare providers caused by avoidable bed days and the shortage of inpatient behavioral health beds, staffing issues, and low Medi-Cal reimbursements. The author calls for a comprehensive solution to the problem rather than punitive legislation that would burden hospitals further.

“There are several reasons these patients have nowhere to go. We have about 823 inpatient behavioral health beds in this region, less than half the 1,660 needed. Many step-down health care providers — including skilled nursing facilities and others — are struggling with staffing shortages,” the article details. “And many facilities will not take patients with Medi-Cal because reimbursement falls so short of covering the cost of these patients’ care. Hospitals have not received an increase in Medi-Cal base rate reimbursements in 10 years. But hospitals are legally required — and morally obligated — to take any patient who comes into our emergency departments. So, as we experience with our patients who have been here year in and year out, with no one else willing or able to take them, they stay.”

“This is an untenable problem that must be fixed. Enacting laws that punish hospitals for a situation not of their making will just make things worse,” he concludes.

Read the full article Here.