Alternate TGH plan questioned by county

February 26, 2003 12:00 am

Alternate TGH plan questioned by county

By ABBY SOUZA

Although Tuolumne General Hospital's recovery plan was not on yesterday's county supervisors' agenda, it was on the mind of board Chairman Mark Thornton.

While TGH Administrator Barry Woerman was asking to hire a pediatrician for the primary care clinic, during the board's turn to ask questions, Thornton raised the idea of a drastic change to TGH — making the hospital into an outpatient clinic.

County officials and community groups have been asking about such an idea in case Woerman's recovery plan doesn't work. Turning the hospital into an outpatient clinic would likely mean closing surgery, acute care, intensive care and the emergency room.

The recovery plan for TGH is moving through hospital committees — and will come before the supervisors next week — as officials try to figure out how to stop the ailing hospital from losing more money each month. It has already borrowed $6 million from the county and gotten $11 million in general fund infusions over the last six years.

Yesterday, Thornton asked Woerman if a model to make the hospital an outpatient service would be included in the revised recovery plan.

Woerman said no, but told the board that hiring a pediatrician would still fit in with an outpatient facility.

Thornton said he wants to see an outpatient option explored before moving forward on any ideas presented at yesterday's meeting or the plan. He was the dissenter in the 4-1 vote to hire the pediatrician.

"I need to know the consequences of going another way," Thornton said.

Supervisor Larry Rotelli, whose Sonora-area district includes the hospital, disagreed. He said any step the hospital takes in trying to save money or bring in more patients is a step in the right direction.

Thornton also cast the only no vote in the decision to waive the hospital's $5.5 million loan ceiling for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.