The new Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura could open a little more than a week before Christmas, officials said.
California Department of Public Health inspectors are set to visit the $275 million project in early December. If all goes well, patients from the existing hospital now called the mountain tower will move on Dec. 16, into a new 250-bed, six-story facility that took more than seven years to complete. The new hospital is expected to open that same day.
New Community Memorial construction started in 2011
The new CMH called the ocean tower likely won`t be the only holiday season hospital opening in Ventura County. St. John`s Pleasant Valley Hospital leaders say they expect to open their new 50-bed addition before Christmas.
Vista del Mar, the Ventura psychiatric hospital that was closed a year ago by the Thomas Fire, opened 27 beds in October. By early January, 28 more beds should open.
People have been waiting longest for the new Community Memorial. Construction on the site adjacent to the existing hospital started in summer of 2011 and was projected to be completed in March 2015.
Construction ran into a series of delays resulting in general contractor HBE Corp. paying a $10,000-a-day penalty for about three years to private, nonprofit Community Memorial. The contractor finished the project this summer, kicking off a transition period for the facility to be stocked and employees to go through intensive training.
Officials say the Dec. 16 date is still tentative, dependent on the outcome of the state inspections.
"I`m not going to jinx it," said Chief Operating Officer Adam Thunell when asked how it feels to be so close after seven-plus years.
All patient rooms are private in the new hospital. The emergency room and operating suites will expand. The intensive care unit, labor and delivery and heart catheterization labs will grow too.
Final inspections also are expected this week and next at St. John`s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo. When regulators give the green light, hospital leaders will figure out the exact opening date.
"Once we get the green light we`ll start to move more patients," said spokeswoman Megan Maloney, noting the $80 million project is expected to open before Christmas although inspection outcomes could affect the timetable.
A grand opening was already held in September for the 50-bed hospital that replaces a Camarillo care unit that debuted the same year Richard Nixon resigned as president in 1974. Leaders predicted the facility would open before Thanksgiving but the date has been pushed back. Maloney cited efforts to coordinate schedules with inspectors also dealing with the Community Memorial project.
The new hospital includes private patient rooms with recliners and sleeper sofas. The new facility brings the hospital its first catheterization lab and three operating rooms that are twice as big as in the existing facility.
Thomas Fire destroyed two Vista del Mar buildings
The Thomas Fire destroyed two of the five buildings at Vista del Mar, shutting down the Ventura hillside facility on Dec. 5. That closure aggravated an already severe shortage of in-patient psychiatric care.
Vista del Mar was the only hospital in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties with in-patient adolescent beds.
In October, the hospital opened 27 beds in one of three buildings that received little damage in the fire. An additional 28 beds are expected to open by early January, Vista del Mar CEO Jenifer Nyhuis said.
"It`s dependent on getting all the staffing we need," said Nyhuis, noting that the hospital has to fill about 25 more slots, some full-time and some part-time.