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Media Room

Articles / 2008

$200 million hospital plan for Ventura introduced

Ventura County Star
Friday, April 18, 2008
By Tom Kisken

Community Memorial Hospital officials are unveiling plans for a nearly $200 million construction project that city and hospital leaders say will be one of the biggest and most expensive in Ventura history.

Pushed by state earthquake regulations calling for hospitals to meet seismic safety standards by a 2013 deadline, Community Memorial officials plan to build a 320,000-square-foot hospital next to the existing building.

"It means continuing or closing the doors. It's everything," hospital President and CEO Gary Wilde said of the project. "It modernizes the hospital. It increases our capacity in the emergency room, critical care and operating rooms. It puts us in a position to take care of the community for many decades."

Public meetings aimed at helping Community Memorial finalize a master plan for the hospital begin Monday, the first step in an approval process that involves Ventura and the state. Depending on barriers that emerge, the process could take 18 months to three years, Wilde said.

Construction could begin in 2010, and the hospital could open sometime in 2013.

The planning meetings won't focus on actual construction details or the new hospital's interior. Instead, they are aimed at gathering community input on the overall impact of the project. Parking, traffic, the landscape and the effect on surrounding neighborhoods will be discussed.

Hospital project leaders will absorb the input and come back to the city with a plan on how to address the various effects. An actual construction plan won't be submitted to the city until later.

Ventura Mayor Christy Weir characterized the magnitude of the six-story building project in a word: "huge."

She said the challenge will be to incorporate the new building into a neighborhood that blends doctor's offices with homes, clinics and both Community Memorial Hospital and Ventura County Medical Center. She said neighbors might evaluate the project in terms of two factors: traffic and parking.

"People don't want visitors to a hospital parking in front of their house," she said.

As proposed, the hospital would sit immediately behind the existing facility bordering Brent Street and what is now Cabrillo Street on property purchased by Community Memorial over the past year. One piece of property is still being acquired.

"I don't think traffic will be dramatically different," said Adam Thunell, the hospital's chief operating officer, noting exact parking and traffic plans will depend in part on the meetings. "Honestly, I think it will be improved."

The new hospital would include 242 beds, the same as the current building. All the rooms would be private, following an industry trend.

"It's what consumers want," said Mike Ellingson, the hospital's vice president of marketing and development.

The hospital plans to build a 33-bed emergency room — 11 more than in the current facility. The critical care unit would include 10 additional beds, for a total of 30. There would be two additional operating rooms and two more catheterization labs where patients are diagnosed and treated for cardiovascular diseases.

Ellingson said the construction is being pushed by seismic regulations for hospitals but is also driven by need.

"We're practicing modern healthcare in a facility that was built 50 years ago," he said.

Construction would cost nearly $200 million, but equipment, anticipated retrofitting needs at Community Memorial's sister facility, Ojai Valley Community Hospital, and other costs could increase the price to about $275 million. Virtually all of the construction money would be borrowed through bonds, Wilde said.

Community Memorial would keep its existing Ventura building and is still planning its exact uses. It might house laboratories, administrative and medical offices and services like laundry, Wilde said. Some of the space might also be rented to start-up businesses that need to be close to a hospital. Because it would no longer house patients, it would not need seismic retrofitting.