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Articles / 2009

Ojai gets state-of-art emergency room, department

Ventura County Star
Thursday, 10/01/2009

Dr. Betsy Patterson is delighted the emergency room she oversees at Ojai Valley Community Hospital has undergone a huge transformation.

“We are now an emergency department. We are no longer a room,” the president of the Ojai Valley Emergency Physicians Group said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday. “They have gotten us out of a rat cage, where we were packed in like sardines.”

The ceremony capped a long drive to renovate the emergency room by many in the community, including Alan Rains, who owns the Rains department store in Ojai and has headed the hospital board of directors for years.

Rains said the hospital, which opened in 1959, once operated as a for-profit entity. “The bottom line was very important, so they weren’t interested in physical improvements,” Rains said. As care at the hospital suffered, the board decided it had three options: sell the hospital to another for-profit chain, sell it to a local organization, or close it.

In 2000, the hospital was sold for $2.1 million to a foundation formed by a group of local physicians and community leaders. Although it then operated at a small profit, there wasn’t enough money left over for major improvements.

In 2005, the board decided to merge the hospital with Community Memorial Health System in Ventura — a merger Rains said has been working “perfectly.”

Gary Wilde, president and chief executive officer of Community Memorial, said the ER renovation is “the fulfillment of the vision we had of the merger. We now have a state-of-the art ER right here in the Ojai Valley.” He said the $2 million project included $1.7 million for the ER and the rest for repairing a roof and other items.

The ER improvements include a separate admitting and waiting area, and six new treatment areas to provide patients and doctors with much-needed privacy.

Tim Wolfe, chairman of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation, said the new facility will improve care not only for residents, many of whom live in rural areas, but also for the many tourists who visit Ojai. He said next on the hospital’s to-do list are earthquake retrofitting, exterior renovations and improvements to the radiology department, along with a new post-anesthesia care unit.

“This is a great hospital,” said Judy Ross, an Ojai resident who attended Thursday’s ribbon-cutting. “We’re very lucky to have it in Ojai instead of having to drive to Ventura or Santa Barbara. The old emergency room was very small. Now it’s more than doubled in size.”