The opening of Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar, scheduled next Saturday and already delayed a month, has again been postponed--this time for six weeks to three months--because of possible problems with a fire-protection system, Los Angeles County officials said Friday.
Hospital officials had already begun stocking medical supplies at the $120-million, 350-bed county hospital, in anticipation of transferring about 85 patients next week from the existing county hospital in the San Fernando Valley, the aging Olive View Mid-Valley Hospital in Van Nuys.
But tests conducted by a private company showed that the new hospital's sophisticated air-exhaust system, which is tied into the building's fire-protection devices, is not operating properly. That delayed the move and left the new opening date up in the air, said Douglas Bagley, hospital administrator.
The test showed that the system, designed to blow smoke out of the building in case of fire, is not expelling enough air, Bagley explained.
"This is all part of the safety equipment we are talking about," said Los Angeles City Fire Department Inspector Leroy Craven. "That problem has to be solved, and the system has to be tested and accepted before we will grant them clearance. Right now they are not ready to be tested."
George Tice, director of the county's Facilities Management Department, said he received a letter late Friday afternoon from the firm that designed the system stating that nothing is wrong with it.
"There seems to be a difference of opinion as to the validity of the test report," Tice said. Tice called a meeting for Tuesday morning between the testing firm, National Air Balance Co. of San Francisco, and the system's engineering firm, Syska & Hennessy Inc. of Culver City.
The problem could be as simple as a miscalculation by the testing firm, Tice said, or as difficult as requiring that the exhaust fans be redesigned.
Until the problem is settled, however, the hospital cannot receive final occupancy clearances from either the Los Angeles City Fire Department or the state Department of Health Services. "It's not enough for just Syska & Hennessy to say that nothing is wrong," Bagley said.
At best, Bagley said, it will now be early July before the new six-story, glass-and-steel building can be opened.
He said hospital officials will need three weeks from the date that occupancy permits are granted to prepare patients for the move and to inform the public that clinics will begin operating at the new Sylmar site.
If new air-exhaust equipment must be ordered, Bagley said, the opening could be delayed up to three months.
The hospital was dedicated March 15. The opening was originally scheduled for April 26, but was postponed because the medical-gas system and hot water heaters had not been tested and the fire inspection was incomplete.
Money for More Services
In another development Friday, the county's budget chief included money in his proposed 1986-87 spending plan to increase services at the new hospital. Chief Administrative Officer James C. Hankla's proposed $6.9-billion budget includes funds to open a maternity ward at the hospital in January, 1987. Most indigent women now must travel to County-USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles to deliver babies.
Hankla proposed an Olive View budget of $104 million, contrasted with $49 million provided in 1984-85 to operate the Mid-Valley Hospital in Van Nuys.
The county bought Mid-Valley in 1972 to use until an earlier Olive View hospital, destroyed by an earthquake in 1971, could be rebuilt. It intends to close Mid-Valley once Olive View opens.
Olive View Administrator Bagley said Hankla's proposed budget, if approved by the county Board of Supervisors, "will enable us to establish the program expansion largely as it had been planned."
Earlier this year, county officials had expressed concern that they might not have the money to provide all the services planned for the new hospital.