UCLA expands – Growth counters government cutbacks

The University of California at Los Angeles has expanded its medical services far beyond its campus hospital, angering many doctors who say they cannot afford to battle a state-subsidized competitor, the Wall Street Journal reported August 15.

Over the past 10 years, UCLA has won a 20 percent share in the medical market in west Los Angeles. University officials say the expansion saved them from having to close the hospital.

Academic universities across the country are in crisis because of cutbacks by the government and by private insurers. According to estimates by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 40 percent of teaching hospitals will be losing money on patient care by 2005.

UCLA’s expansion strategy is one of many ways academic hospitals are meeting the crisis. Some have merged with other hospitals, some have cut or eliminated training programs, and some have been sold to big chains.

Many local doctors claim that UCLA’s success has been at their expense, however. Critics say the university is putting money before medicine, driving small practitioners out of business, and taking advantage of its status as a publicly funded institution.

A group of anesthesiologists, supported by the California Medical Association, has sued the university for violating a state law banning the corporate practice of medicine.

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