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Hospital care, Part 2: Medical center is a providential option for residents

Mission Hills facility is in the midst of expansion project

Posted: January 3, 2009 8:28 p.m.
Updated: January 4, 2009 4:37 p.m.

An artist's rendering of what the completed expansion of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills will look like.

 
Editor's note: Second in a series on SCV residents' regional hospital options. Read Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4.

Providence Holy Cross Medical Center already serves thousands of Santa Clarita Valley patients annually but plans to expand in Mission Hills and possibly build a new SCV hospital are stalled due to a lawsuit and the high cost of property here.

Even after Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital's expansion, hospital officials said it can only serve half of the valley's rapidly growing population leaving thousands going to nearby hospitals for health care services.

Providence serves 15,000 emergency room admissions annually and between 2,500 and 3,000 of those patients come from the Santa Clarita Valley, said Kerry Carmody, Providence's chief executive officer.

Providence, located about 20 miles south of Santa Clarita in Mission Hills, employs about 500 valley residents and would like to open a hospital here.

For the long-term, Carmody considers Santa Clarita Valley, "a strategic move for Providence," and officials look for land here several times each month, he said.

"At this time, there is nothing suitable at the price we can afford," he said.

While building a hospital in SCV is a long-term goal, hospital officials remain focused on the recent acquisition of Providence Tarzana Medical Center and the expansion of the Mission Hills center, which is now in limbo.

Providence officials want to expand the Mission Hills center to meet a growing demand for a hospital that works at near capacity every day.

Those plans are now at a stand still after a judge's ruling in November halted construction, which was 20 percent complete.

A group called Community Advocates for Responsible Expansion at Providence Holy Cross, supported by the Service Employees International Union and Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon, sued the city of Los Angeles and the medical center, criticizing the city council's approval procedure.

The city of Los Angeles Planning Commission unanimously approved the $181-million, 136-bed expansion in 2007.

Opponents want a full environmental impact report, but city officials consider the mitigated negative declaration appropriate for the project.

Opponents also cite earthquake safety concerns, though hospital officials maintain that the hospital will be built according to the strictest standards.

Hospital officials hope the expansion will come before the Los Angeles City Council for approval again.

"Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is disappointed the City Council has failed to rise above politics, reaffirm its initial approval of this project and allow us to resume construction of a building that will house much-needed beds to treat the community's sick and injured," hospital spokeswoman Patricia Aidem said.

The ruling left 200 construction workers unemployed and hospital officials postponed hiring another 250 to staff the new hospital, Aidem said.

The expansion will house an expanded women's services department, which includes labor-delivery rooms, a 12-bed neonatal intensive care unit and general acute care services.

Hospital officials hope to attain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the new four-story building.

In an attempt to serve more patients here, Providence officials opened a health and imaging center on McBean Parkway in summer 2005, Aidem said.

The center includes a pharmacy, non-invasive full-body scanners and facilities for outpatient cancer care, surgery, urgent care, and physical therapy.

"The goal was to serve a growing area within the medical center's service area and to complement inpatient services provided to Santa Clarita residents at Providence," Aidem said.

With specialty physicians on site, the imaging center is home to the only positron emission tomography/computer tomography (PET/CT) in Santa Clarita, Carmody said.

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