Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ojai Hospital Given Clean Checkup

Plans for new ER, upgrades outlined at address, public support given credit for financial success

By Sondra Murphy
Three years into the merger between Ojai Valley Community Hospital and the Community Memorial Health System, administrators, support groups, physicians and staff gathered Thursday to report on the valley hospital’s fiscal and structural well-being.
About 75 Ojai Valley residents turned out for the 2008 State of the Hospital Address.
Despite the state budget deficit, impending Medicare crisis and the fact that 20 percent of Californians are without medical insurance, OVCH’s 2007 operating revenues totaled $23,383,613, with net assets of more than $10 million and a net operating income of nearly $400,000. Salaries and benefits accounted for 58 percent of the hospital’s operating expenses.
“Approximately 50 percent of California hospitals are in the red,” said CMHS president and chief executive officer, Gary Wilde. He said that, with medical insurance providers offering higher deductible plans, hospitals are seeing reduced admissions as the insured postpone their care.
The hospital tallied 1,347 total admissions in 2007, averaging 65 patients per day, and had 8,002 emergency room visits, 658 surgical procedures, 18,173 radiological procedures and 18,013 physical therapy treatments. It also saw almost 22,000 outpatient visits, performed 72,397 laboratory tests and filled nearly 119,000 prescriptions.
Patients using Medicare services totaled 53 percent of those treated at OVCH, while 14 percent used Medi-Cal and 29 percent were insurance clients. The remainder were cash patients.
“I am very pleased to report we’re in the black,” said OVCH chief executive officer Mary Jo Garrett. OVCH has been able to add new equipment to its resources, such as a central monitor in ICU and more detailed CT scan. The hospital also now has 41 additional parking spaces and night lighting for the lot.
“The only reasons we exist is for our patients and for each other,” said Wilde. CMHS is made up of three entities: Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, Ojai Valley Community Hospital and nine family health centers throughout the county, including one in Oak View.
Of the 7,549 patients that the Center for Family Health in Oak View saw last year, most sought family services and three-quarters were MediCal patients. “Medi-Cal patients often have trouble finding Medi-Cal services,” said Wilde, adding the figures show valley residents are using its heath care facilities. The center also provided services to veterans and industrial workers.
Due to donations received last year, efforts to create new emergency room facilities at OVCH are under way. Plans still in the approval phase include triage and treatment rooms, enlarged waiting area and six separate patient bays. If approved, the new emergency facility will be built on the opposite side of the hospital from the current location, improving drive-up access.
“It’s still in the red tape of approval,” said Garrett. “But we expect it to be able to go out to bid in July and begin construction in September.”
Changes in state laws have mandated seismic upgrades to California hospitals and OVCH is slated to receive structural reinforcements to be completed by 2013. “While the hospital is estimated by engineers to be stronger by 50 percent than any other building in Ventura County, the new standard is a hospital must remain in full operation and meet the needs of the community in the event of an earthquake,” said Wilde.
This standard includes functions like intact water and gas systems in case of a communitywide disaster. “The current building is up to codes, but the planned upgrades reflect these new standards.” Wilde said that we are fortunate to have many physicians who live in or near the Ojai Valley, so in the event of a large-scale emergency, doctors will be abundant.
While the seismic work is being done, the hospital exterior will receive a Spanish Revival make-over more fitting with Ojai. “We feel the hospital ought to reflect the community it serves,” Wilde said. On the drawing board are red roof tiles, white or beige walls and a clock tower.
The hospital is also in the process of launching a fully electronic medical record system to replace hand-written notes. The primary advantage is to avoid transcription errors, but is also anticipated to save time during registration and while making appointments.
Wilde estimated the cost of the hospital construction projects total $10 million, which they hope to fund through a combination of loans, a modest net margin, CMHS reserves and community donations.
“We regret having to do this because this is money we could use for better things like medical treatment,” said Wilde. “But this is the law and we must comply.”
Martin Pops, board of trustees’ president, said that community donations have helped to keep the hospital financially viable. The Hospital Foundation Guild holds several benefits over the course of the year, including “Wild West Night,” the “Nightingale Ball” and the October Classic 5K and 10K races.
Guild efforts yielded more than $42,000 in donations last year, which went toward a new ultrasound machine and other equipment, a patient room remodeling and various items to assist with medical care. Fred Keeler III provided $180,000 of additional funds for the migraine center and auxiliary donations brought in another $20,000. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Pops.
“We are standing on the shoulders of giants that have given us this legacy, this asset,” said Wilde. “We will continue to appeal to the community to support our projects to have an ongoing legacy.”

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