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Minimum Wage Bill Comes at Precarious Time for Hospitals

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The introduction this week of a bill that would raise the minimum wage for every health care worker in the state to $25 an hour comes at a time when hospitals throughout California are, literally, closing their doors or reducing the services they offer just to keep open.  

Just last month, Madera Community Hospital in the Central Valley cared for its last patient. Dr. Jonathan Mayer, an OB-GYN who had cared for patients at the hospital, didn’t mince words about the impact on the community: “If you have a car accident, you have to go to Fresno. If you have a heart attack or stroke, you’ve got to go to Fresno. If you’re in labor, and there’s a problem, you’ve got to go to Fresno or Merced … Patients are going to die.” 

Madera is not unique. Cities and towns throughout the state are on track to lose vital community pillars of health care services and jobs: Visalia, Porterville, Hollister, Bakersfield, Humboldt County, all of Imperial County, pockets of Los Angeles serving California’s most vulnerable communities, and many more. 

That’s why state leaders must reject any proposal that further threatens hospitals’ ability to care for patients. Any legislation that creates more uncertainty for patients, a diminished level of services for patients, and a greater challenge in accessing care for patients, runs counter to the mission of every single California hospital. 

Patients must come first.  

The simple fact is that California’s health care system is on the edge of a cliff. Now is the time to consider ways to support the life-saving and life-changing care that hospitals provide, not generate change that creates more instability for a system on the brink. 

We simply cannot ignore the gravity of this crisis — one brought about by huge losses sustained due to the pandemic, crippling inflationary increases — especially the cost of labor — and the severe underfunding of state and federal government programs like Medi-Cal, where California pays just 74 cents for every dollar it costs to provide care to Medi-Cal patients.  

The crisis is not theoretical. It’s happening now, before our very eyes. What has transpired in Madera County will, without question, be replicated in other parts of California. And once a hospital closes, it is incredibly difficult to reopen at all, let alone reopen with the same level of services that Californians need and deserve.  

As this legislation is considered, patients, and their ability to access high-quality health care, must remain paramount for all involved.