TURLOCK -- Kaiser Permanente has sent notices to members in Stanislaus County that its contract with Emanuel Medical Center expires March 31 and won't be renewed.
The Oakland-based health provider has contracted with the Turlock hospital to serve Kaiser patients since April 2003. Kaiser notified the California Department of Managed Health Care in February that the contract would terminate.
Marta Green, a spokeswoman for the patient protection agency, said the department gave approval Feb. 25 for Kaiser's plan to provide Turlock-area patients with three alternative facilities: the Kaiser hospitals in Modesto and Manteca, and Dameron Hospital in Stockton.
Kaiser's plan met a standard for having a hospital, with comparable service and capacity, within 15 miles or 30 minutes' travel of most affected subscribers, Green said. The Modesto hospital with 140 licensed beds "is certainly within the distance standard," she said.
In a statement Monday, Kaiser said that letters were sent early this month to subscribers within a 15-mile radius of Emanuel. Kaiser said that the change affects a "small number" of its estimated 94,000 Stanislaus County members, because the majority of patients use the Modesto medical center.
According to the statement, three people covered by Kaiser insurance are hospitalized at Emanuel on a given day. Kaiser stressed that even after the contract expires, members who need emergency care should go to the nearest hospital, including Emanuel, whether or not it is part of Kaiser's network.
The contract expiration has no effect on the choice of physicians for Turlock residents or where they receive their primary care.
"We are doing everything we can to answer questions and make this transition as smooth as possible," the statement said.
Emanuel officials said the purpose for the arrangement ceased after the Kaiser hospital opened in Modesto in 2008. For several years, Kaiser relied heavily on Emanuel for patient care after it parted ways with Memorial Medical Center in 2003 and started work on the Dale Road center in north Modesto.
After the hospital opened in October 2008, it became the chief location for acute care and special outpatient services for Kaiser's membership in Stanislaus County. The 209-bed Emanuel is being acquired by Tenet Healthcare Corp.
Under the state's continuity of care law, Kaiser patients meeting certain criteria, such as pregnancy, acute chronic illness, terminal illness or a scheduled surgery, can be covered for care at Emanuel for a period after April 1, Green said. Those interested should call Kaiser to make arrangements.
If they run into problems, they can call the Department of Managed Health Care's help center at (888) 466-2219.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.