Hospital Says L.A. County Owes It Millions

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A hospital in the high desert claims Los Angeles County is misusing “billions of dollars” of property taxes that voters designated to maintain and expand trauma centers.
     Antelope Valley Hospital sued Los Angeles County and the Board of Supervisors in Superior Court Tuesday, claiming they owe it millions of dollars from Measure B on the 2002 ballot.
     Fast-growing Antelope Valley is in northern Los Angeles County and southeastern Kern County, between the Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains, on the edge of the Mohave Desert.
     Antelope Valley Hospital and Antelope Valley Healthcare District claim the county is shorting 14 trauma centers by mismanaging and mismanaging Measure B funds meant to benefit patients with no third-party health insurance.
     Measure B was sent to voters after the county projected a budget deficit that would further cripple the county’s already-buckling trauma system, the complaint states. The measure expanded trauma and emergency services and also supplied funds to respond to terrorist attacks.
     With voter approval, the Board of Supervisors levied a parcel tax of 3 cents per square foot, generating more than $256 million in county revenue in fiscal year 2012, according to the complaint.
     Despite the billions of dollars of tax revenue, the hospital says the county has failed to address the “most pressing trauma needs, and failed to fulfill the intent of Measure B to expand trauma services countywide.”
     “Respondents long ago disbanded the Measure B Oversight Committee, further depriving petitioners, trauma centers, doctors, patients, and taxpayers of their rights to know where Measure B funds have been allocated and to determine whether such allocations are consistent with Measure B,” the hospital says.
     The board of supervisors is “‘flying blind'” and failed to properly assess the county’s trauma and emergency needs, the hospital district says.
     Antelope Valley hospital, with 420 beds, is the sole provider for emergency and trauma services for the valley’s 475,000 residents, which is 5 percent of the county population.
     Though built to accommodate 36,000 patients a year, the hospital now intakes 113,000 patients annually, according to the lawsuit. The county allocates less than 0.5 percent of Measure B funds to the hospital each year, it says – one-tenth the amount it should get, based on population.
     “As an example of the inequitable and unjustified allocations of funds that the county and the Board of Supervisors have visited upon AV Hospital, it should be noted that with a more favorable payer mix and lower trauma volume St. Francis Medical Center and California Hospital receives nearly $8 million and $9 million, per year respectively, while AV Hospital receives less than $1 million per year,” the complaint states.
     Though the state auditor has been “extremely critical” of the way the county distributes the money, the Board of Supervisors failed to follow five simple state recommendations on how the money should be administered, the hospital says.
     “The lack of accountability and proper allocation of funds essentially places the county and the Board of Supervisors in the position of judge, jury, and executioner – literally making decisions with life and death consequences as a result of an ad hoc and unjustified system of Measure B funds distribution,” the complaint states.
     Seeking an order compelling the board of supervisors to properly administer Measure B funds, provide oversight of the funds and respond to the state auditor’s five recommendations, the hospital also wants an injunction and accounting of Measure B funds.
     It is represented by Patrick McNicholas with McNicholas & McNicholas.
     The county did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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