Impending Death of Hospitals

Is It Really Easier to Schedule Coverage of a Closed Hospital?

January 18, 2021

We used to joke about the name of Midway Hospital, an acute care hospital in L.A., saying that it was midway between life and death.

An anesthesiologist, commenting on my theme that inpatient care is becoming outpatient care and that the center of outpatient care isn’t the hospital but the freestanding facility, in his case the ASC, told me that I was missing an element in the analysis. 

Specifically, he argued that it is far more efficient and profitable to schedule coverage for a hospital, with its large number of operating rooms running for long hours each day, than it is to schedule for outlying surgery centers running a few rooms for part of a day.

He’s right. But only until the hospital loses so many cases that it doesn’t pay to cover it. Or, until the hospital closes.

Let’s get back to Midway. “Born” in 1040s, by the 1980s it was a part of Summit Health. In the early 1990s, Summit sold the hospital to OrNda Healthcorp which, in turn, became part of Tenet Healthcare. By the mid-2000s, Tenet sold the facility to a physician-led venture, Physicians of Midway. Perhaps seeing the irony in the Midway name, Midway became Olympia Medical Center. On December 31, 2013, Alecto Healthcare  purchased the hospital.

And then, 7 years later to the day, December 31, 2020, Alecto announced the hospital’s shutdown, to be effective March 31, 2021. Midway was no longer midway between life and death.

UCLA Health has announced that it purchased the property, which is still scheduled for closure at the end of March. If and and when it will reopen, and as what, is unknown.

I suppose that it is easier to schedule for zero rooms at what was once a hospital than it is for 5 or 10 ASCs located all over the place. But it’s not very effective, at least if you’re running a business. 

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