The more than 100,000 registered nurses of the California Nurses Association on Friday, Sept. 18 welcomed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature of a bill they sponsored, A.B. 2037, that will help ensure local communities can continue to access desperately needed medical care by expanding noticing requirements when hospitals plan to close or eliminate existing services.
Under the new law, introduced by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, noticing requirements come Jan. 1, 2021 will be 180 days for closing hospitals with emergency departments and 120 days for hospitals without, and 90 days for the elimination of an existing service. Previously, the noticing requirement for closure was 90 days for hospitals with ERs and 30 days without.
A.B. 2037 also expands public notice to include the local city council, a posting on the hospital website, a posting in the county’s community clinics, and postings in the local newspaper and on the local newspaper’s website.
“In our money-driven, profit-driven health care market, hospital corporations make decisions about where to locate and what services to offer based on where they can make the most money, not on the actual needs of the community – even during a pandemic,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and a president of the California Nurses Association. “We’ve seen units and whole hospitals close down just because their profit margins were not large enough. This bill will at least ensure California’s communities have more advance notice so that they can organize to try and save their local hospitals.”
CNA nurses, working in coalition with health care activists and community members, have done just this multiple times over the past decades, as hospital systems have consolidated and whittled away at the number of hospitals in the state and services offered, even as the state’s population has grown. Through public campaigns, nurses have saved what was formerly St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco and San Leandro Hospital in San Leandro from closure. In 2018, CNA nurses in Long Beach fought fiercely, working with local elected officials, to help transfer Community Hospital Long Beach to a new operator to avoid complete closure; the hospital is expected to reopen sometime this year.
Despite these victories, hospitals such as St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, Doctors Medical Center San Pablo, and the entire labor and delivery department at San Jose Regional Medical Center have been shuttered in recent years. St. Vincent and Seton Medical Center in Daly City were both closed by their private equity corporate owner just as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded, only to be temporarily leased and operated by the state of California as COVID-19 surge hospitals because of the obvious need. Seton narrowly escaped permanent closure when it was bought by AHMC Healthcare in April.
This new law will help buy communities and elected officials more time to propose alternative plans.
“Time is of the essence in these situations,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “The earlier a community knows, the more they can do and the more options they have to prevent these devastating cuts and closures.”
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the nation with 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and more than 155,000 RNs nationwide.