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Ventura County

Coronary Care Unit to Open at Los Robles

April 26, 2002|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Robles Regional Medical Center is opening a $3.4-million coronary care unit designed to reduce the need to divert patients to other hospitals because critical care beds are full.

The new unit, part of a $130-million expansion and renovation project launched four years ago at the Thousand Oaks hospital, will add 10 beds for heart patients who require urgent care.

In the past, hospital officials say, too many patients--nearly two dozen a month on average last year--have been turned away because the medical center's intensive care unit has been full.

"This means we are going to be more available for the patients in our community," said critical care manager Jenny Rech, who provided a community tour Thursday of the new facility, which is equipped with private rooms, skylights and state-of-the-art beds.

"No one likes to be on diversion, but unfortunately all of the hospitals in Ventura County have been plagued by overcrowding," Rech said. "This is a real milestone. Hopefully, this will help eliminate the problem, at least for our immediate area."

Every hospital in Ventura County has been forced to divert patients at least a couple of days this year, according to the Ventura County Emergency Medical Services Department.

Los Robles is often among the hardest hit.

In January, for instance, the medical center was closed to intensive care patients for at least a portion of 29 days. That was more than any hospital in the county.

Last year the medical center was on diversion an average 19 days each month, hospital officials said.

Ventura County Supervisor Frank Schillo knows the situation at Los Robles firsthand.

Suffering in March 2001 from a heart condition caused by blocked arteries, the 68-year-old Thousand Oaks resident had to be sent to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard--20 miles from his home--for triple-bypass surgery.

While he had a good experience at St. John's, Schillo said he would have preferred being closer to home to make it easier for his family to visit.

"It was kind of a surprise when I got in the ambulance and they told me I couldn't go to Los Robles," said Schillo, now fully recuperated. "Fortunately for me, the time factor did not make a big difference. But in a situation where minutes can make a difference, [having more beds] can really be important."

The hospital has already completed a $6.5-million, 12,000-square-foot emergency room with private rooms. And plans call for a 200,000-square-foot patient wing and 520-space parking structure, with a cost for both projects put at $120 million.

Los Robles spokeswoman Kris Carraway-Bowman said hospital officials are especially pleased with the new coronary care unit because it addresses a pressing need in the fast-growing region.

The new facility will open Wednesday.

Carraway-Bowman said officials expect the addition of 10 beds to the existing 20-bed ICU will cut the hospital's diversion rate by at least half.

"We are in the business of helping people and it's frustrating when you can't," she said. "We just decided that no longer was acceptable."

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