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Articles / 2010

Work could begin this year on new $320-million hospital

The Camarillo Acorn
Thursday, 05/14/2010
By Michelle Knight

Gary Wild Construction is expected to start in November on a new $320-million Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, CEO Gary Wilde said last week during the 2010 State of the Hospital address at Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura.

Wilde spoke about the future of the hospital and the successes and challenges of the past year to about 120 people in attendance at the annual presentation.

The new six-story hospital, to be built next to the current hospital on Brent Street in Ventura, will meet state seismic safety standards and could be completed in less than four years, he said.

The hospital will have 252 private rooms, 10 surgical theaters and 10 more critical care beds than the current hospital. The new facility will also have healing gardens to lift patients’ spirits and encourage recovery.

Construction of the new hospital could mean work for local residents. Hospital officials will ask subcontractors to hire county residents and pay prevailing wages, Wilde said.

“I’m not an economist, but I’m told this will give our economy a shot in the arm,” he said.

The old hospital will remain in place and be home to laundry services, nuclear medicine, laboratories and conference rooms.

Construction on the $8-million Cancer Center is expected to be finished in October.

Community Memorial, the county’s only independent nonprofit hospital and the West County’s largest employer, is part of Community Memorial Health Systems. The organization also operates Ojai Valley Community Hospital and nine centers for family health throughout Ventura County.

Wilde said patients who can’t pay their medical bill, what’s called “bad debt,” account for 4 percent of the hospital’s expenses. Bad debt and charity care were both up in 2009, he said.

The hospital, however, operates with a surplus. Revenue in 2009 was $9.1 million, nearly 4 percent more than expenses, Wilde said. The achievement is particularly noteworthy in a recession.

Hospital expenses were down in 2009. In supply purchases alone the hospital saved $3 million.
Salaries and benefits account for 54 percent of the hospital’s expenses, while Medicare is responsible for most of its income.

Projects planned for this year include converting all medical records to electronic format and an “aggressive” recycling program.

Wilde praised the hospital auxiliary’s 400 volunteers and asked medical professionals in the audience to stand up.

“Nursing, in my opinion, really sets our organization apart,” he said.

The Joint Commission, a national accreditation organization, found a few minor issues at Community Memorial Hospital in an October 2009 review.

“We’ve corrected that . . . but the great thing is that was a fabulous score,” Wilde said, referring to the few infractions compared to the hundreds of standards the committee evaluates. The hospital received the highest authorization available, a three-year accreditation, he said
Wilde’s report on the hospital impressed Monty Clark of Ventura, a retired vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, a trade organization.

“They have done well,” Clark said of the hospital’s management. “I think the community is going to be well served by the new hospital.”

Clark and his wife, Marita, said that the issues the accreditation committee had with the hospital don’t worry them. The issues were minor and the hospital still earned a three-year accreditation, a testament to how well it’s run, they said.

“You have to understand, no hospital’s perfect,” said Marita Clark, a retired nurse.