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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Hospital Grows Up

More than a year after celebrating the opening of its six-story patient tower, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital plans to expand again, this time with a second patient tower and diagnostic facility – without adding any beds.The proposed expansion was greenlit by Santa Clarita’s planning commission at the beginning of March and is set to go before the City Council on April 13, according to David Peterson, associate planner for the city.Currently, the hospital is asking to build an 80-foot, 115,700-square-foot patient tower; a 60-foot, 84,300-square-foot diagnostics and treatment facility; and add three above-ground stories to an existing parking structure, adding 292 parking spaces to the Valencia campus. The land use entitlement would free up 200,000 square feet of space for the hospital to work with for the project.But the expansion won’t increase the hospital’s bed count.“The possibility is that we could relocate some patient rooms, or what we refer to as beds, areas for patient care, into that building from the main hospital,” said Marlee Lauffer, president of the Henry Mayo Foundation and vice president of marketing for the standalone, not-for-profit hospital. “We are not adding additional beds as part of this proposed future development, but it gives us flexibility to move some patient rooms, or beds, into a space where the technology could be more up-to-date if need be.”The hospital is proposing to transfer 92 inpatient beds from the main hospital building to its second tower.“They have a total of 368 beds on the campus overall,” Peterson explained. “They would put those 92 beds in the new inpatient 2 building, and backfill the hospital building with administrative and storage space.”Infrastructure upgradesThe main hospital building, Lauffer said, was built 45-plus years ago. It would be much more difficult, and expensive, to expand within the existing framework.“Requirements under OSHPD and American Disabilities Act (ADA) are much different than they were in the ’70s when the hospital was built,” Lauffer explained. “I’ve heard hospital executives say we’re in the teenage years of a hospital, so we have a number of years to go, and this valley continues to grow. We want to make sure we’re ready when the timing is right.”Santa Clarita’s population has continued to increase due to new housing construction and annexations of surrounding areas into the city limits, with a slight drop off in 2007. From 2000 to 2010, the city’s rate of growth was nearly twice that of Los Angeles County overall, according to data posted by Santa Clarita.The only cities that beat Santa Clarita in terms of growth during this time period were Lancaster and Palmdale.Lauffer said the hospital may move its entrance to the new tower, where there is more space for a lobby, reception desk, admitting office and gift shop.The diagnostic facility would give Henry Mayo the opportunity to have most of its imaging technology in the same building, with the option to add more equipment depending on demand.“Some of our diagnostic rooms, where X-ray equipment or CAT scans or interventional treatments might occur, if we wanted to add another one of those or expand facilities, it’s much more difficult in an older space that doesn’t have the technology and the ability to be up to current codes, like a new space might,” explained Lauffer.Early-stage planningThere is no estimated cost for the expansion, since the proposal is in its very early stages. No construction timeline is available either, but once the project is greenlit by the City Council, hospital leadership will start making those decisions.Lauffer used the first patient tower, completed in October 2019, as an example of what the public is likely to see — the 163,000-square-foot building cost $164 million to build and had a three-year construction plan. Roughly $10 million of that cost was from fundraising.“We might do bond financing, which is something we’ve done for other projects; we’ve also put aside reserves for growth,” added Lauffer.The Santa Clarita Planning Board discussed the project at three meetings, the first in December, then two more in January and March. During the public hearings, Peterson said the proposal did not garner much opposition from the community.“We haven’t had very much comment against the proposal. … We haven’t had much comment on it at all. It’s been a very smooth process,” he added.Unaffected by COVIDLauffer told the Business Journal that the hospital has not had to change details of its proposal as a result of COVID. Despite an influx of hospitalizations directly tied to the virus, hospitals such as Henry Mayo are still setting long-term goals to slowly shift from inpatient to outpatient facilities.“It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but our goal is less people hospitalized for long stays and more people that take care of their health, through preventative procedures, diagnostic procedures, early treatment or wellness programs, living a healthier life,” said Lauffer, referring to its last five years of projects, including a gym and physical therapy building on Town Center Drive, a new urgent care on campus and a reconstructive surgery center.The Hospital Association of Southern California said hospital changes as a result of the pandemic come down more to workflow, and how that might shift in the face of a disaster response.“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the traditional model for disaster response in California – based on a mutual aid system that provides assistance and support to areas of need – falls short when a disaster is widespread,” said Adam Blackstone, vice president of external affairs and strategic communications for the association. “A modification of existing state law is needed to focus our hospitals’ disaster response on emergency services, not on buildings. The future of disaster response is making sure people’s needs are met, not making sure a building remains open.”

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