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Simi Valley Hospital Addition to Open

Simi Valley Hospital is the latest medical center in the Valley to undergo an overhaul. On May 4, the hospital will have a dedication ceremony and community celebration in honor of its new $75 million Patient Care Tower addition. The hospital, which serves residents of Simi Valley, Moorpark and surrounding areas, is slated to open its new double-wing, four-story tower the second week of May, but the launch ultimately depends on the hospital’s performance on pending state licensure inspections. Construction workers are now putting the finishing touches on the project, the idea for which dates back to 2000. “There’s been significant development in this community,” Simi Valley Hospital Vice President Clif Patten said of the need for a new and improved hospital. “It (the community) has outgrown the facility we have. Our choice was either to lose it or have an up-to-date facility.” The new patient tower will increase the hospital’s total number of beds to 201 from 153 and its total number of rooms to 163 from 72. The tower is on a 146,000-square-foot parcel. Nursing space will be tripled, while total space will be quadrupled, according to Patten. Simi Valley Mayor Paul Miller agreed with his assessment that a new hospital was needed to meet the demands of a growing community. “They’re trying to keep pace, so we’re looking forward to continued improvement,” Miller said. “I think we have needed a facility like that for a long time.” The new tower will have 144 private care rooms, a new cardiac program and gastroenterology laboratory, an eight-bed neonatal intensive care unit and a 24-bed intensive care unit (ICU). The ICU features an elongated nursing station, so nurses can keep an eye on all beds in the unit, Patten said. There are also standalone toilet bowls in ICU rooms, so caregivers don’t have to carry waste through the halls. Additionally, the unit features what are called anti-rooms. Such rooms come with sliding crash doors to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. There is negative pressure in each room, which prevents air from escaping into other areas. Caregivers enter the room through a special side door where they suit up in protective coverings. Women and children In addition to the ICU, an entire floor of the new tower will be reserved solely for women’s and children’s needs. That floor will contain eight labor and delivery and recovery and postpartum rooms, twice the number the existing facility has. “The rooms are larger about a half-dozen people can fit inside of them,” Patten said. “The rooms are set up in the mode of surgical rooms in case there is need for a C-Section. Also, if the baby has any medical difficulties, the ICU is next door.” Businesswoman Elaine Freeman, who serves on the hospital’s strategic planning board and is a past chair of the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, is especially pleased about the expanded labor and delivery unit. “I think it’s a very positive impact with the single occupancy rooms and the baby delivery,” she said. “The services will just be increased ‘quantumly.'” Unlike in the existing facility, units in the new tower are clearly demarcated from each other. Now, there will be no overlap between patients and medical staffers from various units, which should cut down on confusion or unnecessary foot traffic. Also helpful in this regard is the new facility’s broader corridors. The alcoves featured in the new tower’s hallways give patients and staffers even more space to navigate. “The intent is to get rid of all the clutter,” Patten said. Another objective was to try to give patients the privacy and comfort they are used to at home. Now that nearly all patient rooms are private, they can have bathrooms to themselves, whereas before there were four patients to one lavatory. The rooms also contain sinks outside of the bathroom. “This enables patients to see caregivers washing their hands before giving care,” Patten explained. Patients may also control light settings and set room thermostats to their liking up to five degrees in either direction. Now that sleeper chairs are in rooms they can enjoy overnight visits from loved ones as well. Rooms also contain flat screen televisions and free wireless Internet. “We’re trying to provide comfort for family members,” Patten said. Easier to maintain To create a homelike ambience, floors in rooms are covered in sheet vinyl, which resembles hardwood. But the vinyl has more than an aesthetic function. Patten said that it is much easier to clean and maintain. “It has a rigidness, a non-slip surface,” Patten said of sheet vinyl. This is a comfort to patients who fear the possibility of slipping on floors. Explained Patten, “Older patients are afraid to walk on a floor that has a grain.” The artwork in rooms also has a dual function to give patients something beautiful to look at and to conceal the control panel of gases that give rooms a cold, clinical feel. Garden areas, viewable from some rooms, will also enable patients to transcend the sort of antiseptic ambience associated with hospitals. While patients will reap many rewards from completion of the new tower, medical staffers also stand to benefit. They can take advantage of improved parking and picnic areas, as well as a cafeteria. Of most significance to staffers, though, is the hospital’s adoption of Project IntelliCare, a $4 million computerized system that provides caregivers with instantaneous patient care information, such as vital sign readings, lab results and X-ray images. “It means a great deal to staff as well as the community,” Simi Valley Hospital Marketing & Communications Director Jeremy L. Brewer said of the medical center’s makeover. The new tower certainly takes the hospital a long way from 1965, when it was first built. The then 32,000 sq. foot, 50-bed hospital cost about $850,000 to build and served about 8,000 residents. “It was a situation of having it brought into the 21st century,” Freeman said of the new tower. “Technology has changed considerably the needs of people in hospital equipment requirements and that sort of thing. It had to be done to keep pace with what is right technologically.” Because the Simi Valley area has experienced rapid growth for years, design concepts for a new and improved medical facility first came into fruition eight years ago, according to Patten. Between 2002 and 2004 more concrete plans were produced. Some of the ideas for expanding and improving the hospital have yet to be realized, though. Next in line for a makeover is the hospital’s lobby. Its replacement, scheduled for completion next year, will be 7,000 sq. feet and sit on the north side of the hospital campus. It will contain a chapel, a piano, artwork and upgraded seating. Its doors will open into a community garden and a new Volunteer Guild gift shop. Construction on the new lobby will begin immediately after the new tower opens. In the next two years, there will be even more building. A cardiac catheterization and vascular lab will sit on garden level of the Patient Care Tower’s south wing, and a 444, 724-sq.-foot medical office will be built on Sycamore Drive, next to the Simi Valley Hospital Aspen Outpatient Center. The building will contain physician offices and provide outpatient services, among others. “I think it’s going to raise the quality of medical care in the community,” Miller said of the hospital’s branching out. “I’m glad the hospital was able to fund it. We’re looking forward to it in the community.” For more information on the Simi Valley Hospital Patient Care Tower Dedication & Ribbon-Cutting, visit the hospital’s Web site: www.simivalleyhospital.com.

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