Future Hospital Plans
Learn More about the Ballot Measure and how it supports keeping emergency and other healthcare services on Catalina Island In-Depty Q&A with CEO Jason Paret
This Q&A with Jason Paret originally appeared in full in the Catalina Islander in December 2017.
The State of California has mandated that all hospitals meet earthquake safety standards as established by the year 2030 – which means we must begin raising the necessary funds for a new medical center. If the Catalina Island Medical Center cannot meet the seismic standards by 2030, it will close.
CIMC is currently in discussions with the Catalina Island Company as well as evaluating other potential properties. With the passage of the ballot measure and the proven support of the community, we are confident that the right piece of property will become available that will meet the needs of our future medical center.
Absolutely. It’s imperative that we improve the current design of the emergency room, which has inadequate space to provide the necessary services to residents and visitors. A better-designed ER will ensure patient confidentiality and allow us to expand telemedicine services to enable specialists to immediately support ER physicians. We also hope to install a helipad outside of the ER to expedite essential transfers, which will be extremely beneficial for individuals suffering from a cardiac or stroke episode. Transporting high acuity patients within what is called the “magic hour” will improve their chances for higher quality of life after experiencing crises like heart attacks or strokes.
When we talk about transport, it’s important to counter a misconception that our ER transfers most patients to other facilities. We track the number of patients we transfer on a monthly basis, we know that the average person who presents at the ER has a 3%-5% chance of having a condition that warrants the transfer to a specialist on the mainland. These numbers are not much different than larger hospitals on the mainland.
About a year ago, an in-depth hospital replacement study was conducted that analyzed the patterns of where patients with the zip code of 90704 go to receive care. It showed that CIMC captures approximately 15% of the total healthcare dollars. That means that 85% of all healthcare dollars are spent overtown. The CIMC Board of Directors, administration, and staff took a deep look into how we were (and weren’t) serving the needs of our community. We renewed our effort to sincerely listen to our patients on how they want to receive care. Since that time, revenues have continued to grow as we have made the patient experience as important as the care we provide.
There are many more services that we can provide to residents in our community if we had more space. Mammography, infusion therapy for cancer, expanded physical and occupational therapy, inpatient care, additional visiting specialists, colonoscopies, outpatient orthopedics, and cataract removals are just a few. There will be additional services that will be provided as we build relationships with more specialists. This will reduce the need for local citizens to travel to the mainland and incur the cost of travel and lost wages due to missing work.
Many people think that the larger the hospital, the higher quality of care a patient must be receiving. Studies have shown that small rural hospitals provide higher quality and a better patient experience than large hospitals. With a new modern facility, CIMC will provide an exceptional healthcare experience that will impress residents and visitors and make them think twice about going anywhere else for care.
The USDA is very supportive of rural hospitals and has established a financing program for the replacement of aging hospitals. If the ballot measure is passed, we will engage the USDA and plan to participate in its low-interest financing program.
We have not heard the concern that the transportation fee would reduce visitor traffic to Catalina Island. The largest concern is the increased cost of $1.00 on each subsidized ticket that residents purchase.
Many rural communities are in the same situation as Catalina Island, with their hospitals not meeting California earthquake standards. They too must be replaced, but the common solution those communities pursue is an increase in property taxes or sales tax. Since both visitors and locals use the hospital in our community, we felt it wasn’t fair for locals to have to carry the full burden of replacing the hospital. We believe it is best to share the burden among all who use the hospital, including visitors. If property taxes were to increase, locals would bear 100% of the cost of replacing our community’s facility. With the transportation fee, we estimate visitors will bear over 90% of the cost of insuring that high quality healthcare is always available on Catalina.
We are finding that after residents understand the facts on the issues impacting healthcare on Catalina, they are overwhelmingly supportive of the ballot measure.
We have initially projected a cost of $60 million, but this cost will vary and could increase due to inflation. Construction costs increase each year, and the more time it takes CIMC to begin construction, the higher the cost will be.
We often have community members ask why the cost will be so high. The biggest reason is that the State of California requires healthcare facilities to be constructed at much higher standard than most buildings. In addition, healthcare equipment and materials are much more expensive than an average building. Hospitals also come with system redundancy requirements that literally save lives. For example, when electricity, water, or internet are interrupted due to a natural disaster or even maintenance, a hospital must ensure there is redundancy within the system to ensure patients’ health is not adversely impacted.
The process of designing a hospital has not begun, because to start, we’d need to identify the exact parcel of land. Funds are starting to be raised to pay for the architectural design and permitting process, which will cost between $2 million and $3 million. We expect that it will take approximately two years to garner community input and begin construction. The architectural design of the exterior is conceptual and we will be listening to the community prior to a decision being made.
There is no need to begin the permitting process until land is identified and the architectural process has started. Over the past two years we have been working on creating relationships with Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell; Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn; and, of course, members of the Avalon City Council. The City Council has been extremely supportive of the hospital, and we could not imagine a better relationship. They truly have the community’s best interest in mind where healthcare is involved.
Much of this can be estimated. Currently the hospital generates over $15 million dollars in revenue and much of it is reinvested back into the local economy by providing well-paying jobs. Hospitals are about people serving people, so you won’t be surprised to learn that over 65% of the cost of associated with operating a hospital is in salaries. Hospitals in the United States offer some of the best technology in the world to help cure and treat patients. But what makes a hospital great is the personal connection that a group of highly compassionate doctors, nurses, and staff establish with patients even during pain, fear, and crisis.