Affordable health care is something that many of us take for granted. While a large percentage of the working world receives health insurance coverage through their employer, not everyone is so fortunate, especially in these economic times. The ValleyCare System, with a hospital adjacent to Hacienda as well as a sister facility in Livermore, is among the few medical care providers that treats patients whether or not they have insurance coverage or enough money to pay for their care. However, while providing free medical care is an extremely altruistic endeavor, it's also very expensive.
The ValleyCare Foundation, located in Hacienda, was established in 1984 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for both the Valley Memorial Hospital in Livermore and the ValleyCare Medical Center in Pleasanton. Ken Mercer, a former Pleasanton mayor who is now the vice president of the ValleyCare Foundation, explains that the ability to provide services to those who can't afford to pay can be credited to the generosity of the public.
"The whole ValleyCare Health System is a non-profit," Mercer says. "We don't take tax money. The money that people give us through charitable contributions and the money that we make at the hospital doing normal business is turned right back into the hospital."
Mercer goes on to describe circumstances where free care is a necessity. "Most of the people on their way to Shepherd's Gate, which is a local women's shelter, don't have any medical coverage at all. If they walk into the emergency roomif anybody walks into our emergency roomwe provide them with care, and if they can't pay, then we provide it for free. Last year, the hospital provided free care adding up to about $6 million. The year before, it was about $3 million. The economy has gotten a little bit worse. People who have lost jobs, sometimes lose their medical benefits as well."
Over the course of the year, a number of fundraising events are put on by various groups in support of the Foundation. Events include Christmas Tree Lane, the Ruby Hill Giving Thanks Ball, and the Foundation's own golf tournament. The Foundation also applies for grants from different organizations, as well as receiving some interesting donations from individuals and businesses.
"We're expanding our Livermore hospital by two floors," Mercer says. "We built a new wing and we only have enough money to occupy the second floor. Amongst themselves, the doctors raised $500,000. They paid for a new nurses' station in the new wing. The doctors contribute back very generously."
The tenants of Hacienda have also been generous. "We received a grant from a company here in the business park for new mammography equipment," Mercer says. "They just said 'have the bill sent to us and we'll pay it.' It was $97,000."
Right now, the ValleyCare Foundation is trying to raise $29 million to pay for capital needs like operating rooms and equipment, as well as the expansion of the first and third floors in the new wing at Valley Memorial Hospital in Livermore. For information about supporting the ValleyCare Foundation call (925) 598-1870.
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