Ventura County’s Rival Public and Private Hospitals in Merger Discussions
Officials representing Ventura County's "rival public and private hospitals" -- Ventura County Medical Center and Community Memorial Hospital -- have held "secret talks" over the past 10 months to discuss a possible merger, the Los Angeles Times reports. Ventura County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston hired former county administrator Harry Hufford to lead the talks between the two hospitals, which "have waged a bitter war for a decade, competing for patients and squaring off over costly ballot measures." County Supervisors Frank Schillo and Steve Bennett have also participated in the discussions, along with Michael Bakst, Community Memorial's administrator, and county Health Care Agency Director Pierre Durand. While "little progress has been made" on the issue of a merger, Johnston said that the two sides have moved closer to some smaller-scale agreements, such as sharing some services to avoid "duplicating expensive units." The facilities also both agree that the county should replace the "antiquated kitchen and laboratory facilities" at Ventura County Medical Center. Last March, Community Memorial agreed to support upgrades to County Medical in exchange for the county "promis[ing] not to extend the county's low-cost health care plan to private-sector patients," which would likely have taken privately insured patients away from Community Memorial.
In addition to the merger talks, officials have also discussed "whether it would make sense to move the county medical center to a more centralized location," the Times reports. According to Johnston, one possible option is to "merg[e] some county services" with St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, or even "tak[e] over the sprawling campus." This move, however, would "only be considered" if Catholic Healthcare West, which owns St. John's, decided to "pull out of the Ventura County market." Noting that the hospital is running at 70% capacity, St. John's administrator Mike Murray said that CHW "has expressed no desire to sell it" (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 10/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.