Prop. 3 would renovate children's hospitals

October 16, 2008 7:20:36 PM PDT
California voters will once again decide whether to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for hospital upgrades. This time, it's for the state's 13 regional children's hospitals. If approved, Proposition 3 would cover renovation and expansion with a price tag of $980 million.

Hannah Donahue is only 22 months old, yet she's been hospitalized more than most of us will ever be in our lifetime.

When we spoke to her dad, Hannah was undergoing another round of chemotherapy to help fight off her leukemia. It's a long way from Willits, in Mendocino County, where they live.

"There is a pediatrician's office 20 miles away from where I live it's nowhere near equipped to deal with anything remotely close to this type of cancer," said Hannah's dad Jake Donahue.

The number of very sick children needing this kind of service will only increase over time.

California's Department of Finance estimates the number of kids in California will increase by 35 percent over the next 20 years.

Which brings is to proposition 3, a $980 million bond proposal to expand all of the 13 children's hospitals in California.

This is how the money would be distributed:

The eight private-non-profit children's hospitals would each get $98 million. Among them are Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland.

UCSF Children's Hospital is one of the five University of California Children's Hospitals, and each of them would receive $39 million.

"These hospitals are spending everything they have taking care of the children and they don't have the extra capital that they need to make the investment," said Diana Dooley from the California Children's Hospital Association.

The bulk of the money would go toward expanding neo-natal intensive care units, cancer units, surgery units -- the list goes on. About 10 percent of the grants would be used to buy the latest in medical equipment.

It is $980 million dollars in general-obligation bonds. This is not the first time voters have passed a measure authorizing these hospital grants, and it probably won't be the last.

Just four years ago, most Californian's voted yes on Proposition 61, which gave these hospitals $750 million.

Lew Uhler is with the National Tax Limitation Committee.

"In 2004, Prop. 61 they convinced us to support a $750 million bond, only part of which has already been spent, not they are right back at the trough," said Uhler.

The rising cost of construction is partly to blame. A Rand Report indicates since 2001 hospital construction costs in California have almost doubled.

"We didn't expect that we would come back quite as soon as we did, but there may be other times in the future that it will be necessary to make additional investments," said Dooley.

"That isn't what the initiative process is for. It's for the general benefit of the taxpayer. If you are going to have a bond, you ought to have a bond that is for roads and water projects that helps everyone in the state," said Uhler.

Supporters of Proposition 3 say this expansion is necessary to stay competitive.

For example, Children's Hospital Oakland is among the top children's research institutions in the area of blood diseases and stem cells. It was here that doctors found that umbilical cord cells can cure rare blood disorders like sickle cell anemia.

"Our hospital has a motto of treating locally and healing globally. We have interactions throughout the world. We started the pediatric global health initiative. The technologies that we develop here are being used throughout the world," said Dr. Bertram Lubin from Children's Hospital Oakland.

"California, however is under great pressure from other areas, recruiting away our best and brightest. And we if don't provide funding for these hospitals, we won't be able to maintain either the buildings or the people that our children need when they are very ill or injured," said Dooley.


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