Proposition 3 Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2008

In the September 2008 issue of Smart Business, this column discussed scores of health issues facing California’s 9.4 million children, a good percentage of whom are uninsured or underinsured. We presented alarming statistics — skyrocketing numbers of children with obesity, asthma, diabetes, lack of immunization and other health issues reaching a crisis. Without resolution, children, families and communities suffer. And employers lack a healthy work force needed to compete in tomorrow’s marketplace.

One solution is on the November ballot. It’s Proposition 3: The Children’s Hospital Bond Act of 2008, which authorizes millions of dollars in expenditures to improve California’s children’s hospitals and purchase new medical technology and equipment to care for the state’s seriously ill and injured children.

Smart Business spoke to Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., president and CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers and chair of California Hospital Association, to learn more.

Why are children’s hospitals so important?

California’s eight certified, not-for-profit children’s hospitals and five University of California children’s hospitals treat more than 1 million children’s injuries and illnesses each year. These children face life threatening diseases like leukemia, cancer, heart defects, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and countless rare conditions. Children’s hospitals provide 88 percent of the inpatient care for children requiring heart surgery, 97 percent of surgery for children needing organ transplants and 71 percent of inpatient care for children with cancer. These children’s hospitals also provide preventive health care services throughout the state.

At children’s hospitals, hundreds of children are cured or have their young lives extended for many years. Specialists help to improve the quality of kids’ lives, helping them stay at home and in school. Today, almost 90 percent of children born with heart defects can be cured or helped considerably with surgery. And the survival rate of children with leukemia is 80 percent.

While community hospitals may have pediatric beds, it is children’s hospitals whose entire staffs have specialized training, knowledge and experience in treating kids.

California’s children’s hospitals are among the nation’s premier pediatric research centers and the source of scientific discoveries that benefit children around the globe, not just those treated at their facilities. When it comes to a child’s health, there’s no better place than a children’s hospital with specialists dedicated exclusively to the comprehensive, unsurpassed care of children.

Do children’s hospitals care for all children?

Children’s hospitals treat seriously injured and ill infants and children, without regard for a family’s income or ability to pay — from the most fragile premature newborns with challenging health needs to older teens coping with cancer. As our population grows, so must our children’s hospitals. More children require the services of children’s hospitals than current capacity can accommodate.

In earlier issues of this magazine, we described many other challenges facing California hospitals — including unfunded mandates like seismic regulations requiring hospitals to spend millions upon millions to meet stringent retrofit requirements.

Can you describe Proposition 3?

Proposition 3 authorizes $980 million to improve and expand California’s children’s hospitals and purchase new technology for treating seriously ill and injured children.

Eligible regional, not-for-profit children’s hospitals will be able to apply for grants of up to $98 million. University of California children’s hospitals would each be eligible to receive approximately $39 million. The division of funds is proportional to the number of patients seen. Eligible children’s hospitals must meet specific criteria, have at least 160 licensed pediatric beds and 30,000 annual pediatric patient days.

What’s the cost to Californians?

Proposition 3 does not raise taxes, it saves lives. It gives the sickest children in California the chance for a better life. The cost of Proposition 3 is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s annual budget, and it enables California’s children’s hospitals to provide leading-edge pediatric care for generations to come. With this capital investment in facilities and medical technology, children’s hospitals will be better prepared to meet the needs of California’s rapidly expanding pediatric population, which the state projects to grow by 35 percent during the next two decades.

As the father of four children who began his career teaching child development and has been involved in children’s health care for more than two decades, I know how important Proposition 3 is.

Children’s hospitals don’t have the space to handle the growing number of seriously ill and injured children who are referred to us every day. Proposition 3 funds will help children’s hospitals build additional bed capacity and purchase essential technology and equipment to ensure all of California’s children can access the best care available. The bonds are an investment in millions of children whose lives are entrusted to the care of our children’s hospitals.

BARRY ARBUCKLE, Ph.D., is president and CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers (www.memorialcare.org) and chair of the California Hospital Association. Reach him at arbuckle@memorialcare.org or (562) 933-9708. MemorialCare Medical Centers include Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach.