Hospital officials at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, Calif., have confirmed “some cutbacks” to the Infectious Diseases Division (IDD), which were originally announced internally in December 2012. These cuts will include HIV specialists Dr. Paula Gaut and Dr. David Hardy, who is also IDD’s director. Dr. Yoko Miyasak, an infectious disease researcher and HIV specialist, also will lose her hospital position unless she receives grant funding. Hardy warned that, while HIV/AIDS patients will continue to receive medical attention at the hospital, they will not have the expertise of “full-time, credentialed HIV specialists.” Patients also will not get the benefit of the hospital’s coordinated HIV care and research program.
Dr. Zab Mosenifar, executive vice chairman of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Medicine, which includes the IDD, and Sally Stewart, the media relations manager, accused Hardy of spreading erroneous information. Their public statements disagree with Hardy’s on the number of positions that will be eliminated. Mosenifar emphasized that IDD is not closing. So far, no one has told patients where they should go for care, as HIV/AIDS patients usually see a doctor every three months. Hardy said he has been informing patients of the cutbacks as he wants them to be prepared, and he is encouraging them to get their medical records. According to Mosenifar, IDD’s fellowship training program will remain with Dr. Phillip Zakowski, a private practitioner and volunteer teacher who will assume Hardy’s responsibilities as part-time coordinator of the fellowship program.
One year ago, when the hospital closed its psychiatric division due to budget cuts, patients scrambled to find care and local mental health providers became overwhelmed. Jimmy Palmieri, West Hollywood human services commissioner, is worried that the situation will be repeated with HIV/AIDS providers. Palmieri is concerned about the patients and where they will find an immunologist for treatment. Since West Hollywood does not contract for services with Cedars-Sinai, the hospital was not required to notify the city of the cutbacks in its IDD. However, West Hollywood contracts with other organizations whose budgets may be affected if many of Cedars’ patients turn to them. Cedars-Sinai is required to offer a “community benefit program” under California law (SB 697) in exchange for nonprofit status. The hospital states on its Web site that one of the benefits it offers is “need.” In light of this statement, Hardy criticized the decision to reduce HIV/AIDS services, as West Hollywood is highly impacted by HIV/AIDS.