Community Memorial, Ojai Valley Hospitals Agree To Merger
The boards of Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura County and Ojai Valley Community Hospital in September agreed to merge the two facilities in order to "protect the financial stability of the small Ojai hospital," according to hospital officials, the Ventura County Star reports.
The merger, which is subject to approval by Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D), would join the assets and liabilities of the two private facilities, while retaining each hospital's buildings and services.
According to Gary Wilde, CEO and president of Community Memorial, the merger will benefit 240-bed Community Memorial by protecting the referrals it receives from 103-bed Ojai Valley and by allowing the larger facility to pick up referrals Ojai Valley was sending to other hospitals.
Under the merger agreement, which was not released by the hospital boards, Ojai will maintain its emergency department and continue to offer general surgery and medical care services and a skilled-nursing facility. Officials from the hospitals said some staff positions would be eliminated, but displaced workers probably would be moved elsewhere in the organization.
According to Wilde, "There would be two separate hospitals, two separate licenses, two separate medical staffs that would be reporting to a common community board of directors in a not-for-profit organization." Wilde said all 17 members of CMH's board will be retained and joined by three members of Ojai Valley's board.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office, said Lockyer would examine whether the merger would limit local residents' access to care. "Typically, if we approve, we set conditions on approval," Dresslar said.
If the merger is approved, it would take effect late this year or early next year, according to hospital officials.
Ojai CEO Victoria Alexander said the merger would save money through volume discounts and the consolidation of business functions and would improve medical care by allowing patients to be more easily transferred between the two hospitals for complicated surgical procedures. She said, "We're going to be able to offer what I would call seamless coordination of services." Wilde added, "The driver to this primarily is to preserve services for the Ojai Valley."
Ojai Mayor Sue Horgan said she supports the merger and noted that she knew of no organized opposition to the move.
"The entire management team is very excited about this," Alexander said, adding, "It's going to give them the resources they need so they can do their jobs without living on the edge. Nine hospitals have closed in California since the beginning of the year. We are watching our friends close" (Wilson, Ventura County Star, 10/29).