New hospital lures thousands of visitors
Tours showcase facility, technology, patient-centered care
Friday, August 16th, 2013
Issue 33, Volume 17.
The nine-hour celebration, which gave the public its first glimpse inside Temecula’s newest landmark, marked a key milestone in a decades-long push to plan, build and open a hospital in the fast-growing city.
"It’s been great," Marcia Jackson, Temecula Valley Hospital’s director of strategy and business development, said of the outpouring of interest.
She said the turnout underscored the growing excitement that many residents have felt as they tracked the 140-bed hospital through its conception, construction and anticipated completion.
"They’ve been watching this and waiting for it," Jackson said as she greeted a pair of afternoon visitors during the Aug. 10 event. "The tours were booked pretty solid."
The open house showcased the hospital’s state-of-the-art design, cutting-edge technology and patient-focused care that administrators say will be unique in the region. It also marked the latest influx of medical services to sweep into an area that was once rated alarmingly low in hospital beds and specialty care.
The open house followed a July 31 ribbon cutting that attracted nearly 500 city, county and state officials along with hospital staff and business and community leaders.
The hospital is expected to cost the parent company, Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services, about $150 million when it opens, possibly as early as next month.
Three approvals needed to proceed
The hospital plan – which publicly surfaced in early 2004 – experienced more twists and turns than almost any other development proposal in the city.
Several years of planning followed by considerable neighborhood opposition ended in January 2006, which was when the Temecula City Council approved a proposal by Southwest Healthcare System to develop a 35-acre site in Temecula’s southeast corner.
At that time, the development plan called for a 320-bed hospital that would include a pair of medical towers.
But a subsequent court challenge filed by residents and a nurses’ union was successful. The litigation delayed, but did not derail, the project. After further review, the council approved new environmental documents and granted new approvals in January 2008.
But construction did not begin anytime soon, and difficulties at Southwest’s other hospitals in the region diverted the company’s focus away from its Temecula project.
Those difficulties included Southwest’s extended difficulty in winning state approval to open a $55 million addition to its Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta. Delays also shadowed efforts to open a similar expansion at the company’s Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.
Delays breaking ground in Temecula and extensive state licensing scrutiny of Rancho Springs prompted city officials, business leaders and state lawmakers to periodically grill Southwest officials over the lack of progress.
A growing frustration among Temecula council members was eased when Southwest spent $8 million over a 10-month period to seek new permit approvals and take other steps aimed at jump-starting the stalled project.
A third development plan submitted by Southwest was approved by the Temecula council in February 2011. That plan called for the 320-bed medical complex to be built in stages. Future plans call for the facility to include medical offices and cancer and fitness centers.
Council members approved the project after receiving assurances that work will begin on the second segment, which would include the remaining 180 beds, by 2019. If all proceeds as planned, that section would open about 2022, city officials said at the time of the final review.
The approval of Temecula Valley Hospital was followed by the opening of a $230 million medical complex in Murrieta. That hospital, which overlooks Interstate 215, sprouted over a 26-month period under an alliance with the Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Since it opened, Loma Linda Murrieta has brought open heart surgery to the region and introduced new cancer and childbirth strategies. It has also added specialized wound care and bariatric surgery to its offerings.
Long-awaited celebration unfolds
The lack of a hospital in Temecula galvanized public interest, and Southwest’s project attracted widespread attention as work crews broke ground, pieced together the skeleton of the five-story structure and then installed the massive letters that form its name.
"That was a big day for us when the namewent up," Jackson recalled.
The Temecula hospital open house – which required the services of about 200 staff members and volunteers – culminated a marketing push that rivaled Loma Linda’s unveiling. The Temecula event showcased the new hospital and its programs, but it also featured a colorful array of public services and local nonprofit groups.
School buses were used to shuttle visitors to and from nearby parking lots. City firefighters had extended the ladder of a rescue truck, and police, paramedic and California Highway Patrol personnel chatted with visitors and displayed their vehicles and equipment.
Pallets full of drinking water, soda and snacks were unloaded from a rental truck for distribution to visitors. Children were entertained by an inflated slide and a rope-laced climbing column. A vast tent structure housed representatives of 14 hospital departments and numerous ancillary services.
After a check-in process, visitors gathered in groups of 20 or more for self-guided tours that included stops at key locations where videos were shown or staff members explained the rooms’ functions and answered questions.
Staff members wore purple t-shirts that proclaimed: "Patient-centered, family-sensitive care." That’s more than a motto, Jackson said, as that approach is reflected in the hospital’s personal care and around-the-clock visitor accessibility.
"That is so friends and family can be an active participant in the recovery process," Jackson said. "We see them as a vital part of the care team. They need to be actively engaged as well."
The hospital features a "spiritual care room" and a volunteer chaplaincy program.
Visitors toured the hospital’s third, second and first floors. They paused to look over the patient rooms, nursing "collaboration stations," intensive care unit, surgery rooms, emergency room, triage rooms and shared "flex" areas.
Each location was anchored by an abundance of computer screens and robotic-looking devices, many of them attached to wheels and equipped with motors. Even the floor-cleaning machines are mounted on Segway scooters.
"That’s the great thing about being new," Jackson said. "You’ve got all the latest and greatest technology."
The hospital’s walls are decorated with about 200 large photographs that are fused onto metallic plates. The pictures of local scenes and events were taken by area photographers and mounted and donated by Metalography, an Old Town business.
The hospital’s services and setting won enthusiastic praise from many visitors at various points of their tours.
Becky Mercado, who has lived in the Temecula area since 1989, said it is a relief to know that emergency and acute care services are now within minutes of her home.
"This is very important," she said. Her husband, Vince, said the opening of the hospital is another measure of Temecula’s coming of age.
"The longer you stay here the more you like it in Temecula," he said.
John and Anita Kutz, who have lived in the wine country for about 25 years, mused about the years in which they had to travel to Fallbrook, Riverside or beyond for emergency or acute medical care.
"It is a blessing for the community," Anita Kutz said.
Mint Christoper and her husband and some friends drove from Menifee to the open house. A five-year resident of the Sun City area, Christopher said she was impressed by the new hospital and its services.
"I think it’s fabulous – the (scenic) view and the pictures," she said. "Another thing I like is the 24-hour visiting (policy). You can stay 24 hours a day with your family."
Such reactions were common throughout the day, said Dr. Laurence Boggeln, an early advocate of the hospital who was distributing brochures on palliative care, a range of specialized services that are available for patients with serious illnesses.
"The universal reaction has been: ‘Wow! This is really something. We’ve been waiting a long time for this,’ " Boggeln noted. "But I tell them that as amazing as the building is, the people are even more incredible. It is really unique. Many of us see medicine as more of a ministry than a job and it shows in their attitude. I think the patients will see it from (the chief executive) on down."
The Temecula Valley Hospital is located at 31700 Temecula Parkway, Temecula, CA 92592
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