Children Hospitals Counting On Prop 3 As November Nears • Long Beach Post

Long Beach’s own Miller Children’s Hospital and about a dozen other California children’s hospitals look towards November with widening eyes.  Proposition 3 will be on the ballot, and if passed, will provide a total of $980 million to children’s hospitals across the state.

The California Children’s Hospital Association has begun a statewide campaign that includes advocacy in Sacramento, an upcoming commercial campaign and the ImagineWithUs website – which prominently features Jamie Lee Curtis in support of the bond and provides information on Prop 3, interviews with children and more.

The children’s hospital bond doesn’t raise taxes,” it says.  “It saves lives.”

Here in Long Beach, Proposition 3 would have a direct effect on changes made to one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals.

Miller Children’s Hospital is constantly looking for ways to improve itself, and the passage of Prop 3 would certainly be a push in the right direction.  If the $980 million bond passes, Miller Children’s Hospital would be eligible to apply for up to $98 million that could be used for construction and equipment.  Five University of California children’s hospitals and close to ten others will also be applying for funding.

“Proposition 3 will help children’s hospitals meet the current and growing needs of California’s children with the most serious and threatening illnesses and injuries,” says Diana Dooley, CEO of the California Children’s Hospital Association.

“These are funds to make capital improvements that are necessary to expand or remodel, or in Miller’s case to build a whole new building.  Children’s L.A. has a significant expansion planned. Children’s in Orange is in the planning stages of a new high-rise tower facility. The needs of the children’s hospitals have far exceeded their ability to expand without additional support from the state.”

In fact, the Miller Children’s Hospital already has the money earmarked for projects, like a new Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), diagnostic imaging and other equipment, and completing the 3rd floor of a new building currently under construction.  State-of-the-art technological equipment could be purchased to offer the best quality children’s care in the state, and the hospital would be able to expand its services even further to accommodate more children than ever before.

But not all are convinced.  With the state in a financial trouble and funds for California services drying up left and right, $980 million is a lot of money to give to anyone.

The official opposition language on the November ballot will read:

“At a time when California is already deeply in debt, when its residents’ ability to pay off bonded debt is questionable and its credit rating causes bond interest rates to soar, adding bonded indebtedness for anything but the most essential infrastructure is unwise to the point of absurdity.

“But even if more bond debt were not an issue, this measure is badly flawed. This nearly $1 billion bond measure is another abuse of the initiative process in that it has been bought and paid for by the special interests (hospitals, their administrators, and staffs), who will benefit directly, personally, and monetarily from its passage.”

Of particular concern is the story of Prop 61, a measure passed in November 2004 that granted $750 million in general funding to California children’s hospitals.  To date, though, only $403 million from Prop 61 has been awarded to hospitals.  People who oppose Proposition 3 wonder why another bond is needed when the funds approved by Prop 61 (four years ago) have not been fully spent yet.

“All of the funds authorized in 2004 have been obligated by the hospitals,” says Dooley.  “They are all either building or planning now. Those that haven’t used their ‘04 funds are looking to combine them with the ‘08 funds. Some have used none of the ‘04 funds because they need so much more to meet their needs.”

Miller itself received $74 million from Proposition 61 in 2004, and began construction on a $189 million new building expansion.  Prop 61 helped start construction, and hopefully, Prop 3 will help finish it.

Without Prop 3, Miller Children’s Hospital says it will not be able to make necessary improvements.  At all children’s hospitals statewide, very little money comes from patient payments because the hospitals treat based on need without regard for ability to pay.  Without being able to rely on payment for procedures, measures like Proposition 3 are needed to ensure that the hospital is growing and improving.

“There’s a great deal of pressure on these hospitals and they do an amazing job to provide the care that they do,” Dooley says.  “But to do the extra needed to expand, they need help.“

By Ryan ZumMallen, Managing Editor

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