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Articles / 2011

Ventura hospital construction expected to bring jobs, spur the economy

Ventura County Star
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
By Tom Kisken

Construction of a new Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura will create new jobs, protect old ones and should help turn a midtown area into a second downtown, city and hospital leaders said at a groundbreaking Wednesday night.

"It's probably the biggest construction project we'll ever see in Ventura," said Mayor Bill Fulton, referring to a $268 million project. Approved by the city, it will bring a six-story hospital to a site on Brent Street just behind the current hospital.

The project is expected to bring 200 jobs at the construction site, with the complex set to be completed in March 2015. Fulton cited the possibility of using the existing hospital, which will remain, for biotech labs and services aimed at attracting medical research firms that want to be a close to a state-of-the-art hospital.

In an event sandwiched by construction equipment and mounds of dirt, others cited hope that the new hospital will bring new businesses and consumers to the midtown section of Main Street.

"This is a great catalyst," said Dan Long, a member of the Midtown Ventura Community Council. "It's probably the best thing to happen in the city for years and for many years to come."

The construction is driven by changing state seismic standards but also, according to Community Memorial leaders and staff, because the current hospital was built in the 1960s.

"In the ER, we'll have at least 35 beds and no one will be in the hallway, I hope," nurse Kelley Atwater said during the ceremony, the line drawing a smattering of applause.

Gerald Arcuri, regional vice president for the Hospital Association of Southern California, said replacing the decades-old complex will aid medical care.

"Very often, facilities get in the way of doing the best for patients," he said.

The project is being financed through $350 million in tax-exempt bonds issued with the help of the city. The money includes funding for renovation of a sister hospital in Ojai and reserves designed to insulate the health system from unexpected financial hardships in the future. Community Memorial Health System also is asking employees and doctors for voluntary contributions and expects to launch a communitywide fundraising effort.

Ventura County Medical Center, the public hospital located a few blocks from Community Memorial, also is planning to build a new wing in a $175 million project. That construction also is driven by seismic standards.

The Community Memorial groundbreaking drew a long list of speakers including Lynn Bova of Ventura, the mother of quintuplets born at Community Memorial in March 2001. She said she was excited at the prospect of using a new hospital, or parts of the hospital.

"My husband and I were talking last night about how we don't want to be using the maternity unit again," said Bova, joined at the podium by her husband and their six children.