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Articles / 2009

A healthy step for Ojai Valley hospital

Ventura County Star
Sunday, 09/27/2009

The long-term health of Ojai Valley Community Hospital, which has already greatly improved since its merger with Community Memorial Hospital San Buenaventura in 2005, will get even better with the opening of a new emergency room.

The hospital’s new $1 million-plus ER is now at a new and larger location within the hospital and includes six beds — double the previous number — complete with privacy partitions, new admitting and waiting areas, new ambulance bay and the latest in technology and equipment.

Hospital administrators are awaiting state certification before they can open the new ER. That OK is expected to come some time next month.

The word “expansion” is one seldom used these days in regard to hospitals. Over the past decade, stunning changes in the healthcare industry have negatively impacted many smaller, independent hospitals.

Ojai Valley Community Hospital, founded in 1960, was among those struggling in the late 1990s to keep its doors open amid rising labor costs and shrinking payments from insurance and government providers.

A group of local physicians and community leaders, headed by Alan Rains, a local department store owner, struck a deal to purchase the hospital from Province Healthcare Inc. in 2000 to stave off possible closure. Later, the March 2005 merger with Community Memorial in Ventura breathed even more life into the Ojai Valley hospital.

In 2008, the third full year of operation under the merger, the Ojai hospital recorded 1,200 hospital admissions, 7,938 emergency-room visits, 18,576 outpatient visits, 703 surgeries and filled 130,557 prescriptions.

Clearly, the more than 35,000 residents of Ojai, Meiners Oaks, Oak View and the Upper Ojai are more dependent on their 103-bed hometown hospital than most Ventura County residents. Without it, they would have to travel down a winding two-lane road to hospitals in Ventura or Santa Paula — a drive of 30 minutes or more.

It was this prospect that led residents to seek a larger, more-modern ER. Beginning with a generous donation from Chilant Sprague, a 91-year-old Ojai resident, the community was able to raise nearly half the funds need to build and equip the new ER.

This latest expansion is an outstanding example of hospital administrators and residents aggressively addressing the current and future needs of the Ojai Valley community.

Now that the Ojai Valley has further strengthened this vital institution, it should give greater peace of mind to every resident that top-notch emergency medical care is just minutes away.