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Why No Canyon Country Hospital?

| News | June 6, 2019

Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth have heard the cries: We need a hospital on the east side of town.

“About every election cycle during at least one candidate’s forum” is how often Councilmember Smyth says he hears it, although he acknowledged he didn’t when he last ran in 2016.

Councilmember Kellar doesn’t question the need, either. He said he had a good friend with broken ribs take a ride to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

“Bob, it was the most excruciating trip,” Kellar said his friend told him.

Social media is a place people have expressed their desires. On Facebook, Martha Estrada and Andrea RC have posted wishes for a new hospital, citing valley expansion and population growth.

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However, it’s not happening anytime soon. It is too expensive and time-consuming to build a hospital here, whether a new one or a second Henry Mayo campus.

According to Joan Hoffman, a health care manager who posted on the discussion website Quora, two hospitals that opened in Dallas in 2017 cost between $800 million and $1.3 billion. Hoffman also wrote that 185-bed Mercy Hospital in Merced cost $166 million when it was built in 2012.

“At less than $1 million per bed, it was considered quite economical, especially for California,” Hoffman wrote, and does anyone expect the 2019 cost to be the same as seven years ago?

What the city could actually do is limited, Smyth said. It could help by speeding up the approval process should some hospital operator seek a parcel of land on which to build.

Or it could task the Economic Development Corporation with finding some company that wants to bring a hospital here. Holly Schroeder, EDC president and CEO, said the organization’s current focus is on bringing industrial, aerospace, technology and biotechnology companies into the city.

That isn’t to say the EDC isn’t ignoring medicine entirely. If a medical-office company wants to move here, Schroeder said she’s happy to help.

And there are numerous options in the city, many of which offer urgent care. Kaiser Permanente opened an urgent-care facility on Tourney Road to go with its medical offices in Canyon Country. Facey Medical Group has several area locations, including one on Soledad Canyon Road that offers mammograms, ophthalmology, optometry, pediatrics, primary care, radiology, ultrasound, treatments for infectious diseases and diabetes, and nutrition and general wellness.

Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers offers a variety of non-urgent services, including immunizations, mental – and behavioral – health counseling, family medicine, women’s health and physical exams.

Exer, which claims on its website that it’s “more than urgent care,” offers emergency-room services at lower costs.

Schroeder said she’s also aware of something she calls “centers of excellence,” in which people can go for a specific purpose, such as cancer treatment or hip replacement, that aren’t full hospitals.

But sometimes, one needs a hospital because the situation is dire, a true emergency – and according to Scripps, there is a difference between “emergency” and “urgent” – or the patient has suffered a trauma. Henry Mayo is the only designated trauma center in the area.

The way Henry Mayo was built also probably couldn’t be replicated today. It was built on land donated by the Newhall Land & Farming Company and opened in 1975 with 99 beds at a cost of $9 million.

Perhaps a second Henry Mayo facility in Canyon Country would also be a trauma center, except Director of Marketing and Public Relations Patrick Moody said it’s too expensive to build another campus. He estimated if would cost more than $100 million to build. Also, with the healthcare industry moving toward what he called “preventive care,” also known as preventative care, which emphasizes shorter hospital stays and more urgent-care facilities, it might not be profitable to build another hospital.

Gone are the days of hospitalizations for such procedures as tonsillectomies, Moody said; they’re now outpatient procedures. Open-heart surgery patients also are being released sooner than a generation ago, he said.

But say Henry Mayo officials wanted to build another hospital and had the money to do it. Moody said it still would take between 10-15 years to finally get it opened because the state regulations are extensive.

The Facilities Development Division of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) in 2013 put out a 129-page advice guide for working on projects under OSHPD jurisdiction. There are 10 review processes just to get a hospital built, including ones relating to building safety and seismic concerns, to say nothing of whatever city and county requirements there might be.

But if someone else wants to build one, Moody said the hospital would not object.

For now, Henry Mayo and its 232 beds will have to suffice, and Rob Skinner knows this.

“Cities don’t build hospitals, companies do,” Skinner wrote on Facebook. “Hospitals are private businesses. If a company sees SCV as a good place to earn money, then maybe they will invest the hundreds of millions needed in order to build a new hospital. It comes down to money. Just like everything else.”

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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