Executives at Saint John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., last week announced a $25 million comeback plan to reconstruct the quake-damaged inpatient building and reopen the Westside hospital's doors by August.
The plan calls for a scaled-down facility employing half as many people.
In a "town-hall" style meeting conducted Feb. 12 on the steps of the shattered medical center building, Sister Marie Madeleine Shonka and various Saint John's executives outlined the hospital's initial plans to restore inpatient services this summer.
Currently, Saint John's isn't offering inpatient services because state inspectors soon after the violent Jan. 17 earthquake decided that the hospital was unsafe. Some 190 patients were evacuated at that time.
A variety of outpatient services, including imaging, radiation and cardiac care, were scheduled to reopen Feb. 14 in nearby medical offices.
Sister Shonka said executives envision the facility reopening as a smaller hospital with 220 beds and an as-yet-be-determined number of outpatient health services (Feb. 7, p. 8).
However, it's unclear whether services such as emergency care will be offered in the near future or be provided through some form of joint arrangement with nearby Santa Monica (Calif.) Hospital Medical Center. Sister Shonka declined to discuss that possibility, saying it was too early to know.
Sister Shonka said executives have determined it would be a "tremendous disservice (to the community) to rebuild everything." Hospital executives expect to employ about half of the hospital's 2,000 former workers.
Acknowledging publicly that Saint John's was involved in discussions with nearby Santa Monica Hospital about jointly providing various unnamed healthcare services, Sister Shonka noted that "600 beds (are) no longer necessary in Santa Monica."
David Langness, a spokesman for the Hospital Council of Southern California, pointed out the difficult issues healthcare executives must weigh when choosing to cut beds from their facilities, asking "Do you risk possibly limiting accessibility to healthcare and community need, or do you eliminate beds because it makes sense on paper?"
On Jan. 17, the day of the devastating quake, 650 beds were available to Santa Monica area residents through two hospitals. After Saint John's closed, some 109 beds were available at Santa Monica Hospital.
News of the hospital's recovery plan received mixed responses among workers uneasy about possible job losses. Critics of the hospital's plan noted that reconstruction of hospital bed space in an already overbedded market wouldn't necessarily prepare the hospital to compete in an ag gressive healthcare environment.
Meanwhile, in other quake-recovery-related news, the Department of Veterans Affairs was awarded some $73 million in emergency relief funds approved by Congress two weeks ago to cover repair expenses at damaged VA facilities in Sepulveda and West Los Angeles. About $43 million will be used for clean-up and restoration at the Sepulveda facility, although no decision has been made on whether to save the hospital.