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⭒ Press Releases

San Mateo Health System Proposes Closure of Burlingame Long Term Care and Transfer of Residents

We Ask Why?

With little fanfare and no opportunity for public comment, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will be asked to vote on February 14, 2012 to terminate the county’s lease with Burlingame Long Term Care Center. The fate of the remaining 230 long term residents, who will likely be transferred far from their families and community, is apparently not up for discussion.

Eight years after declaring that the addition of the long term care facility was “consistent with the hospital’s mission and vision,” the San Mateo Medical Center is now recommending that the county refrain from renewing the lease of the long term care center. Citing the age and condition of the building and a reduction in state reimbursements, the County Health system is promising residents “appropriate placement elsewhere and a safe transition to their new locations.”

Given that a large percentage of the residents have all or part of their care paid for by the Medi-Cal program, it will be impossible for the county to keep that promise, as there are few Medi-Cal beds within San Mateo county, and, even outside the county, long term care facilities are reluctant to accept long term Medi-Cal residents. Ironically, because the Long Term Care Center is part of the hospital, the average daily rate is almost double what a free-standing nursing home would receive for a Medi-Cal resident – approximately $411 per day.

No Cut in State Funding

Although the county health officials are claiming a 23% reduction in state funding as a major cause of the proposed closure, they have failed to mention that the state cuts have been enjoined by a December 28, 2011 decision by the U.S. District court, and the courts have consistently blocked all of the D/P SNF rate reductions since 2008.

With no cuts in state funding and a Medi-Cal reimbursement rate almost double that of free-standing nursing homes, one can only ask – why?

Why risk the lives of the residents through transfer trauma? Why force residents to leave what has been their home for many years? Why force San Mateo long term care residents to leave their county to find placement far from their families and friends? Why sacrifice 200 trained and experienced staff when the unemployment rate is still extraordinarily high and jobs are scarce.

Deliberate Reduction in Occupancy

Although the Long Term Care Center is licensed to accept 281 residents, there are only 230 residents there today. Many of these residents are severely disabled, making placement close to family members almost impossible. Given the severe shortage of long term care Medi-Cal beds in San Mateo County – again, we ask why? Why the deliberate reduction in occupancy if the facility is suffering from a funding crisis? Fifty-one more residents = fifty-one more reimbursements, either from Medicare, Medi-Cal or private pay.

Keep the Long Term Care Center Open

Telling the media that the closure is necessary because the building is old and because of funding cuts that don’t even exist is disingenuous at best. Meanwhile, the threat of closure has caused widespread anxiety among the family members and the residents, many of whom have been there for years.

We call on San Mateo elected officials to step up and prevent this tragedy and keep the Long Term Care Center open.