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Two Health-Care Plans for Diamond Bar : Medicine: One hospital proposal fell apart several years ago. Now two firms want to remedy that--by building medical facilities on adjacent lots.

May 10, 1990|IRENE CHANG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DIAMOND BAR — Several years after plans to build a hospital here fell through, two medical corporations are drawing up separate proposals to build health facilities on adjacent lots in the city.

Inter-Community Health Services Inc., which owns Inter-Community Medical Center in Covina, has purchased 26 acres of land on Grand Avenue near the Pomona (60) Freeway for the purpose of developing a medical center that will offer services that have not yet been determined.

Meanwhile, Nova International Care Enterprises Inc., an Orange County-based company that develops and manages hospitals, is proposing a 96-bed, $25-million to $35-million hospital on an adjacent lot currently owned by Downey Savings & Loan. The company is trying to find physician investors to finance the land purchase and construction.

Both companies say Diamond Bar is an ideal location because it is easily accessible from the freeways and lacks a hospital within a five-mile radius. There are 10 hospitals within nine miles of the site.

So far, neither company has submitted formal plans to City Hall, and until Monday, neither was aware of the other's intentions.

"I was surprised, I was surprised as hell," Venkatappa Kumaraswamy, Nova's president and chief executive officer, said on learning that Inter-Community wants to build a health facility next to his proposed hospital site.

Diamond Bar City Manager Robert Van Nort, who met with Kumaraswamy and Mayor Gary Werner to discuss the project, emphasized that the plans are preliminary. Until a conditional-use permit is applied for, "they're strictly researching the matter," he said. "But because a hospital is a high priority to the city, we will take every step to move it as fast as we can through the system."

Van Nort said he has not met with nor heard from Inter-Community officials.

This isn't the first time Diamond Bar has been considered for a hospital. In 1985, a subsidiary of Dallas-based American Healthcare Management Inc. bought the land now owned by Inter-Community and obtained state approval for a 71-bed, acute-care hospital.

But the plans collapsed in 1986 when American Healthcare Management faced financial problems. One year later, it filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, said Forrest Cebold, assistant treasurer for American Healthcare. A group of doctors tried to buy the property in 1987 but couldn't raise the money, Kumaraswamy said.

In 1988, 64.2% of available hospital beds in the state were filled, down from 68.5% in 1982, according to the California Assn. of Hospitals and Health Systems. But occupancy is picking up slowly as the population increases and fewer hospitals are built, said Lori Aldrete, a spokeswoman for the association.

An Inter-Community telephone survey of 400 Walnut and Diamond Bar residents backs the company's contention that additional health services are needed, said Deborah Nicklas, Inter-Community's vice president of planning and marketing.

In addition, the area has a low doctor-to-population ratio, Nicklas said. Statewide, there are three doctors for every 1,000 people, compared to slightly more than one doctor per 1,000 residents in Diamond Bar and Walnut, she said.

Inter-Community officials will hire a consulting firm and organize a citizens' group to determine the health-care needs of the area before they come up with specific plans. Nicklas said the project will probably include emergency and outpatient facilities, and may share resources, physicians and staff with the 280-bed Inter-Community Medical Center.

Kumaraswamy's company is building a 250-bed hospital in Hesperia, and recently entered into a joint venture to purchase and manage the 203-bed Healthcare Medical Center in Tustin. He said local doctors, many of whom were involved in the 1987 hospital plan, have expressed interest in financing his Diamond Bar hospital project, which would be a private, for-profit facility.

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