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Articles / 2010

Prep work begins on new CMH cancer center

Ventura County Star
Sunday, 01/20/2010

When a parking lot and three small buildings are torn down next week, they will be the first dominoes toppled in a $320 million chain of events designed to bring a new six-story hospital to Ventura.

Community Memorial Hospital officials are preparing to build a two-story cancer center that consolidates several different programs and clears the way for construction of a new hospital.

A construction fence for the 22,000-square-foot cancer center has been put up at the site at Brent Street and Loma Vista Road. Preparation work this week will be followed by demolition. Construction should begin in February and could continue into September. It is expected to cost about $7.5 million.
The project was driven partly by the need to relocate the treatment of cancer by high-energy radiation. The services had been housed in the area where the new hospital will be built.

Hospital officials said they decided to consolidate as many cancer services as possible in the new center. Chemotherapy treatment, diagnosis of cancers and treatment of blood diseases will all take place in the new site. Support groups and other wellness services will also be in the center.
“You have somewhat of a one-stop shopping center,” said Gary Wilde, CEO of Community Memorial.

The buildings being demolished house an out-patient lab and a pre-operative clinic. Both services have been relocated to the hospital. A cancer resource center has been temporarily moved to the Center for Family Health on Ashwood Avenue in Ventura.

Construction on the new hospital, adjacent to the current building, is expected to begin by the end of the year and should be finished by early 2014, perhaps sooner, Wilde said. That project is driven by state earthquake mandates but also by the need to upgrade facilities.

“This is now 50 years old,” said hospital spokesman Mike Ellingson of parts of the facility. “It’s time for us to build a new hospital.”

The $320 million pricetag for the total project, which includes equipment for the new hospital and renovation of Ojai Valley Hospital, has always been a tight fit. That hasn’t changed, Wilde said.

Proposed changes to Medicare payments that are part of healthcare reform mean hospitals are lowering revenue projections at the same time more people are losing their jobs and their health insurance.

But while it’s a difficult time for hospitals to borrow money, the costs of construction is less expensive than it has been in several years. The hospital will apply in February for approval from the Federal Housing Authority to use tax-exempt bonds for the financing. Commercial bonds may also be part of the equation.

Some observers predict economic hardships will cause the state to be lenient with hospitals that don’t have their facilities built by Dec. 31, 2014. Wilde said he doesn’t want to count on that.

“The fines are like $2 million a year,” he said.

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