City Council updated on progress of Santa Paula Hospital

December 26, 2007
Santa Paula City Council

Santa Paula Hospital (SPH) is gaining, but the reopened facility is not seeing an influx of the non-insured that was largely blamed by the hospital management company, Quorum Health Resources, for the closure and bankruptcy of the former Santa Paula Memorial Hospital (SPMH).

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesSanta Paula Hospital (SPH) is gaining, but the reopened facility is not seeing an influx of the non-insured that was largely blamed by the hospital management company, Quorum Health Resources, for the closure and bankruptcy of the former Santa Paula Memorial Hospital (SPMH). The hospital was the subject of discussion during the December 17 City Council meeting,City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz noted that the city has “encouraged the hospital to come and visit from time to time,” to keep the Council and community updated on SPH business.SPH Chief Operating Officer Christina Thielst said that the hospital, which closed and declared bankruptcy in December 2003 and was reopened as a satellite campus of the Ventura County Medical Center in July 2006, is seeing a rising patient census. The hospital has welcomed 450 babies, more than 2,100 patients have been admitted, and over 8,700 people have received Emergency Room treatment.“We are now averaging about 950 ER visits a month,” a figure Thielst said closely mirrored projections “at this point in our growth.” Services and surgeries are building, including orthopedic and fracture care: “It’s been a long time in coming, but the equipment is here and the surgeons are ready” for the latter.The hospital is “constantly” adding equipment and staff, and about 50 percent of the latter previously worked at SPMH. Many hospital staffers are river valley residents. A high percentage of patients surveyed have rated care and services as good or excellent in several areas of service.“Santa Paula Hospital accepts all major insurances and public assistance programs,” said Thielst. “Our 2008 goal is 14 daily patients,” although SPH has met and even surpassed that count since it has been open.Thielst said she is often asked what people can do to help the hospital. “The most important thing” is residents throughout the river valley must tell their physicians “that they would like to be treated at Santa Paula Hospital.”Improvements include a security system for newborns and, if baby has to be transferred to Ventura County Medical Center, both mother and child are transferred so they are not separated.Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre asked Thielst to define the relationship between VCMC and SPH. Santa Paula Hospital “fits under the license of VCMC similar to clinics all the county... it provides us benefits, an opportunity to better utilize resources using efficiencies of scale,” said Thielst. In addition, the relationship eases patient transfers making them as “easy as transferring a patient from one unit to another” for treatment by highly trained personnel.
Aguirre questioned ER traffic, asking if “folks that may or may not have health insurance or good health insurance feel they have to wait until a crisis” to seek treatment at the Emergency Room.“We had heard the previous hospital had issues with people using the ER as a primary provider; we know that is expensive and if we suspect they will qualify we try to fix them up with a payer source” or work with them on charges, said Thielst. But, she added, “We have not noticed” a high-volume of such patients, rather those with insurance or alternate payment sources.Councilman John Procter asked for clarification on types of service, and Thielst noted that “any general surgery” is available at the Hospital on the Hill. “Before, if we had a hip fracture” the patient would have to be transferred, but now the patient can remain at SPH for full treatment.“I want to thank you for becoming a part of the Santa Paula community,” said Procter, noting Thielst’s involvement. “It’s real important that you have made inroads with the community,” including community use of the SPH conference room. “You’ve been very warm and welcoming and do a great job,” said Procter.Ventura County respects the “tradition of the hospital and wants to keep that alive,” said Thielst.“Not many rural cities have their hospital shut down” then reopened, said Councilman Ray Luna. “The river valley is fortunate.”“It’s always nice to have a local hospital, and it’s a big asset to Santa Paula,” noted Vice Mayor Ralph Fernandez.Mayor Bob Gonzales asked how many are employed on campus. “Last count about 117, however additional people” offer support such as billing offsite, said Thielst.“Keep up the good work,” said Gonzales.Any one with questions can call Thielst at 933-8600.



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