Protests Mar Barstow Hospital Opening

(October 19)  BARSTOW—The new Barstow Hospital opened on October 13, with Barstow Community Hospital staff and Desert Ambulance transporting inpatients to their new beds at the state-of-the art facility, beginning at 6 a.m. Simultaneously, the emergency room at Barstow’s 50-year-old hospital shut down and a new ER, featuring a trauma bay, airborne infection exam room and 15 exam rooms, began taking in patients.
CEO Sean Fowler said the transition was a smooth one achieved through “meticulous planning.”
In 2005, when the city signed its agreement with Community Health Systems to build a new hospital, it was slated as a 60-bed hospital that would cost $60 million.
Due to higher-than-anticipated costs, Community Health Systems delivered a 30-bed acute care facility, although the floor plan and size of the structure will permit future expansion to a 60-bed facility. Hospital officials justify the downsizing by citing the consideration that an average of 23 patients utilized inpatient beds at the old hospital, which was licensed to accommodate up to 56 patients.
The opening of the facility at 820 E. Mountain View  was cleared by the California Department of Public Health Licensing and Certification, which completed a survey of the facility a week previously to ensure the new hospital is in compliance with state licensing requirements. Based on that review, the surveyors recommended licensure for the new facility effective Saturday.
The commencement of operations, however, was marred by protests by registered nurses from the hospital who said that management had “misplaced priorities” in undertaking the construction of a facility that was 15,000 square feet larger than the old hospital while there is yet a lack of clarity with regard to the contractual status of the nurses and other professional health personnel who work there. According to California Nurses Association/National Nurses United spokeswoman Suzette Pornelos Kaliko, “A hospital cannot be state of the art if it is only a building. It also needs committed, highly trained and dedicated RNs. More and more of our experienced nurses are leaving to work in hospitals where they can provide safer patient care.”
The city elected to undertake the hospital replacement as a consequence of Senate Bill 1953, which was passed in 1994 following the Northridge earthquake. That law required that the existing 50-year-old hospital be retrofitted by 2030 or replaced with one that meets state seismic standards. City officials believe replacement to have been the most cost effective approach.

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