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Hospital care, Part 1: A regional approach

Newhall Memorial looking for more space

Posted: January 1, 2009 7:22 p.m.
Updated: January 3, 2009 12:20 p.m.

The main entrance of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital at the intersection of Orchard Village Road and McBean Parkway in Valencia.

 

First part of The Signal's series on local health care options. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Even after four years of fighting over an expansion plan - and facing a sour bond market, a lawsuit, state approval and construction contracts - the expanded Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital will only serve about 50 percent of the Santa Clarita Valley's residents.

"No single hospital ever meets 100 percent of the needs of any location," said Roger Seaver, hospital president and CEO, during a November meeting with The Signal's editorial board.

Seaver believes it would be difficult to find any hospital that meets even 75 percent of an area's needs.

Many SCV residents travel to the San Fernando Valley for medical care at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center or to Kaiser-Permanente's facility in Panorama City.

And as a big new hospital prepares to open in Palmdale, officials there are confident they'll draw patients from Acton, Agua Dulce and parts of the eastern Santa Clarita Valley.

Meanwhile, Newhall Memorial - which admitted 11,552 patients in the 2008 fiscal year, had 43,637 emergency-department visits and delivered 1,348 babies - won't put growth on hold while awaiting bonds or state approval.

An 18-bed intensive-care unit, a new operating room and a cardiac cath lab are under construction. A new neonatal intensive care unit is in the planning stages.

The $300 million expansion project, approved by the Santa Clarita City Council in December, will increase the hospital from 340,071 square feet to 667,434 square feet. Four parking structures are part of the plan, and two of the multilevel structures include helipads. The plan also calls for a medical plant, three medical office buildings and a 120-bed in-patient tower.

But the distressed economy could affect construction.

"We have a highly unpredictable future in health care financing," Seaver said. "This is the project that can be built."

The project is financed through bonds, which are paid for by the hospital through its revenues.

"We've gone through a period of six to 10 months of financial market collapses among which is the traditional bond insurers for tax-exempt hospitals," Seaver said. "I don't know if I can get insurance for bonds."

However, he noted the market will correct itself in a matter of years.

Another obstacle could be the lawsuit two local community organizations filed Dec. 22 against the city of Santa Clarita over the hospital's commitment to the inpatient tower.

Both sides previously said they do not want the lawsuit to affect construction of the master plan.

The 221-bed nonprofit acute care hospital opened in 1975, and has 375 physicians on staff and employs 1,450 people, has offered a range of services that include maternity, wound care, pathology and a behavioral health unit, according to hospital spokeswoman Laura Young.

Newhall Memorial also has outpatient lab space in Canyon Country, Newhall and three locations near its Valencia campus. There are plans to build an outpatient physical therapy site in Canyon Country in 2009, Young said. Acute rehabilitation and cancer care are two services in high demand, she said.

"Helping patients regain their independence after trauma, illness or injury is the mission of Henry Mayo's interdisciplinary team of nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists," Young said. "Our trauma and emergency services handle severe injuries as a level II trauma center with surgeons on-site and sub-specialists on call."

The emergency department is approved to provide pediatric services, and hospital officials focus on cancer care, she said.

"At Henry Mayo, cancer care has traditionally been one of our best services," Young said.

The program components include a cancer committee, which is a multi-disciplinary group made up of health-care professionals who care for cancer patients; a cancer registry, responsible for recording and classifying every cancer patient treated at the hospital; and regular meetings with physicians and staff with the primary purpose of making treatment decisions and recommendations, Young said.

The hospital's Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center is where patients are screened, diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

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