|A new report out on Measure A shows that the half-cent sales tax is making a difference in Alameda County. Locally, the tax has benefited ValleyCare Health System and Axis Community Health, according to officials from both organizations.
ValleyCare has received $1.05 million from Measure A and the funds went toward the first phase of upgrading and enlarging the Pleasanton hospital's emergency room, according to Ken Mercer, vice president of the ValleyCare Foundation.
"(Measure A) was very generous in helping us and Scott Haggerty, our supervisor, should receive recognition for working hard in helping us receive the money," Mercer said.
The emergency room expansion is crucial for the medical center, which has been dealing with a space crunch for many years. The ER was built in 1991, is 4,000 square feet and meant to serve 13,500 patients. However, medical professionals are actually assisting more than double that number.
The expansion broke ground early this year and will be constructed in three phases at a price tag of $6.7 million. Phase one includes nine additional treatment rooms, including an isolation room and nurses' station; phase two includes a bigger reception and waiting area, two triage areas and a covered ambulance entry area; and phase three includes four treating stations and a larger nurses' station. The ER will go from 4,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, from 12 treatment areas to 23 private treatment rooms, from one triage area to two, from two open registration stations to two private stations and from a waiting area with seating for 10 to one that seats 30.
Measure A funds have also helped Axis Community Health, a Tri-Valley provider of medical, mental health, substance abuse counseling and health education services.
Sue Compton, executive director for Axis, said the health provider received approximately $75,000 to help implement a new practice management system that cost $300,000.
"Currently, we have $135,000 in support of the women's clinic that we are constructing at our Pleasanton clinic site, with a groundbreaking late this fall, as well as S108,000 in support of our behavioral health services expansion project, which will assist us in the costs of obtaining an additional site in Pleasanton for many of our mental health and behavioral health services, opening approximately Dec. 1," Compton said.
According to the report on Measure A, the county sales tax supporting emergency medical, hospital inpatient, outpatient, public health, mental health and substance abuse services for low-income and uninsured people has generated $109 million in fiscal year 2005-06 and $113 million in FY 2006-07. The measure, which passed with 71 percent approval in March 2004, also created a citizen oversight committee that monitors spending for each fiscal year.
According to state data, the report said 11 percent of county residents (160,000) are uninsured and another 21 percent are eligible for public health insurance programs, including Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, which target low-income individuals and families.
While much of the report is positive, it said the recent economic downturn will affect the amount collected going forward.
"Sales tax receipts are growing at a slower rate each year, meaning that Measure A funding increases are growing more slowly also," the report states.
State and federal cuts to health care and a growing number of uninsured county residents are adding to the problem.
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