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Antelope Valley Hospital's idea to balance budget stirs controversy

August 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Despite a recent facelift, the Antelope Valley Hospital is facing a financial crisis. Hospital officials say with a persistent double-digit unemployment rate in the High Desert, the hospital is taking in more and more uninsured patients.

Dr. Abdallah Farrukh, hospital board chairman, says the hospital is losing millions. Now, one idea being considered to balance the books is stirring controversy. It would be to allow expectant mothers from China and other countries to have their babies at the hospital, for a price. The practice is known as "medical tourism" and it is legal.

Hospital officials say the neonatal unit can expand to handle more deliveries. And with the one child policy in China, America is an option for growing families because those babies born in America would be able to claim U.S. citizenship.

"Her drive may be to come to the United States and have her second baby. I, as a healthcare delivery system, if somebody knocks on my door to want to deliver a baby, I cannot say no," said Farrukh.

Farrukh believes if the idea ever gets off the ground it could be a financial windfall for the hospital and local economy.

"I really don't know yet what my position is. I'm probably in favor of it. However, I need to know a lot more about it," said Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris.

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford is against the idea.

"I am not on board and I won't be on board until I get certain questions answered in my mind: liability, impact to the hospital itself now. We are going to now create a new focus that could take resources away from existing. This is a community hospital," said Ledford.

Hospital officials say while this is just an idea, something needs to be done. Investors provided the hospital with a more than $100 million tax-free bond to grow the medical facility, and hospital officials say those investors are threatening to take the hospital over by next year if things do not change.

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