Increased Doctor Pay Cuts into VMC Budget

In the first five months of the fiscal year, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s on-call and overtime pay for doctors took a staggering leap, going from an average of less than $20,000 a month in 2011-12 to $967,000 this fiscal year. The Board of Supervisors will discuss the $1 billion health agency’s drastic uptick in costs—4,835-percent increase in per-month, on-call wages— as well as other issues at Tuesday’s meeting.

For the first several months of the fiscal year, the agency’s expenses surpassed its budget, resulting in a net operating loss that totaled $35.8 million by the last count in November. Amazingly, that would still be a $2 million improvement from the previous fiscal year. However, changes have been made and VMC officials expect to end this fiscal year with a $23.9 million budget gap.

Though patient volume grew by more than 8 percent, adding up to $30 million in added revenue, payroll costs turned out to be $12 million more than budgeted at the outset of this fiscal year.

“In nursing units, statutory staffing rations mean that labor costs tend to exceed budget,” the report notes. “These factors make it difficult for [the medical center] to meet its targeted salary savings of $11.5 million.”

Outpatient medical costs this fiscal year jumped $11 million over budget, mostly because of an uptick in the number of seniors and disabled people needing outside services.

“The scale of outside cost growth is staggering: For Medi-Cal managed care enrollees, the outside costs per member per month … from July to November 2012 increased by 62.3 percent compared to the same five-month period a year earlier,” the county staff report says. “The figure for commercial managed care enrollees was 29.7 percent.”

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Agenda for February 12, 2013:

• Tattoo parlors will have to pay more in permitting fees, as changes to state law required the county to increase regulatory costs on the body art business. The new fees will rake in about $25,000 a year for the county from anyone making money off of tattoos, piercings, branding, permanent cosmetics and other body modifications.

• Last fall, a new state law allowed people to sell homemade foods, as long as they contain no cream or meat. Before, artisan bread-bakers or granola-makers would have to whip up their recipes in a commercial kitchen to legally market it to consumers. Part of the new legislation, however, requires local oversight—something that means more fees. Supervisors will consider a new fee schedule for local artisan chefs, essentially any one-person “cottage food industry” that makes $35,000 or less in gross annual sales this year.

• Higher-than-expected revenue from public safety, vehicle and property transfer taxes—among others cited as “key indicators of economic recovery”—means the county will head into the next fiscal year with $26.4 million more than originally planned—a boost considering there was a $90 million projected deficit. Supervisors will hear a mid-year budget update for planning the 2013-14 fiscal year, and one item will require spending a one-time $150,000 fee to start up a gun buy-back program. Board President Ken Yeager talked about guns during his State of the County speech, and he is expected to make joint announcement Wednesday morning with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Sheriff Laurie Smith.

• Supervisors will consider selling four unused county properties in San Jose’s Rosemary Garden area worth a collective $1.8 million.

• For the past few years, the county’s Department of Alcohol and Drug Services has offered beds to 93 parolees who would otherwise have no place to stay. The department is asking the county to extend the service, because it recently received a $13,440 state grant.

• County-employed engineers and scientists will see a 1-percent general wage increase, per their labor union contract.

• The county will consider extending its contract for Coplink, a program that connects law enforcement agencies locally and around the country and provides tools to compile and analyze information to combatting terrorism. Approval would allow the county update its program to include facial recognition tools at a total cost of $3.1 million annually.

• Star One, the helicopter the Sheriff’s Office uses to scout for marijuana grows and aid search-and-rescue missions, needs a major overhaul this spring. Replacing the engine will cost $50,000.

• The District Attorney’s Office got a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to pay for its attempt to reduce its backlog of forensic DNA evidence.  Because the grant’s been shrinking year to year, the county will have to actually lay off a criminologist this time. DNA submissions have tripled in the past decade; there’s a backlog of 200 cases that need analysis. 

• Almost without fail, victims of crime suffer a loss in wages, emotional suffering and/or medical bills. Restitution is slow to come by, often held up by drawn-out justice proceedings and the perpetrator’s inability to pay. To bridge the shortfall, victims can file claims to get money from the state’s restitution fund. Locally, those claims are processed by nonprofit Silicon Valley FACES. Supervisors will consider paying $741,000 to extend the organization’s contract for another year.

• Almaden Quicksilver County Park, aptly named for having once housed the largest mercury mines in the Western Hemisphere between 1845 and 1972, continues to bleed poison into the Guadalupe River. The county’s poised to approve a $200,000 agreement with environmental consulting firm CH2M HILL, Inc., to prepare construction and planning documents to a future remediation project on the site.

WHAT: Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meet
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: 408.299.5001

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

One Comment

  1. There was over 350 stabbings and shootings in San Jose alone last year. Do you think the mayor and city council want you to know that. Do you think the murky news wants you know that? 

    That’s why trama doctors and nurses are racking in overtime. Good for them.

    Get rid of the mayor’s gang task force and give the money they waste to doctors and there staff to save the little gang bangers.

    My head hurts, can I get an aspirin.