LOS ROBLES: Hospital Plans Ambitious Expansion
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s Los Robles Regional Medical Center is "bucking a statewide trend toward consolidation" by embarking on a planned expansion fueled by a "virtual monopoly" and "continued growth in the Conejo Valley." The Los Angeles Times reports that the medical center will reopen the former Westlake hospital as an urgent care center and outpatient clinic, "spend $6.5 million to triple the size of its" emergency room, build a $4 million intensive care unit and is considering constructing "a new multistory tower of patient rooms." Touting Los Robles' rare position as the sole provider of health care in the area, spokesperson Kris Karraway said, "Anybody who runs a hospital looks at us with envy. You couldn't be in a better position ... right now. Because the competition isn't there, we don't have to spend money on advertising and buying duplicative equipment. We can truly concentrate on bringing in health care services that people now leave the area for." Industry analysts also cite the low number of indigent patients in "affluent" Thousand Oaks as a factor in the hospital's success. The medical center "made a 12% profit on its operations last year, while about half of California's hospitals lost money."
Some question whether Los Robles' expansion is intended to discourage the incursion of Tenet Healthcare Corp., which "announced plans to move into the Conejo Valley after Columbia closed the Westlake hospital." It then abandoned "its plans this summer as it became clear the Westlake facility would be reopened as a satellite of Los Robles." Tenet spokesperson Brandon Edwards said, "It's very interesting the way the whole delivery of service has gone in the Conejo Valley. The interesting part to me is that they contracted their services, and now they're expanding them again." Karraway said, "[W]e can sit back on our laurels and let another company come in, or we can be proactive and take steps to be better." She added, "From an economic standpoint, you can say, 'I want to monopolize the entire valley here.' Or you can look at it another way and say, 'I have a responsibility to provide the best care possible.' We look at it both ways" (Kelley, 10/8).