LLUHSH gets set to see patients

LLUHSH gets set to see patients

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Loma Linda University Heart and Surgical Hospital gets set to see patients

01/03/2009
By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI The Press-Enterprise

The 28-bed Loma Linda University Heart and Surgical Hospital will hold a
formal opening ceremony Tuesday and could begin seeing its first patients as
early as Wednesday.

A team of state inspectors examined the 66,000-square-foot, two-story
hospital two weeks ago, said hospital Administrator Jesse Mock, who has been
waiting for a message on his pager that the facility can begin admitting
patients. 'We are going to start with some minor outpatient cases,' he said,
but eventually the hospital will treat patients needing heart, vascular,
gynecological and ear, nose, neck and throat procedures.

Mock said the new hospital -- once opposed by the medical center when it was
proposed by a separate investment group -- will treat up to 20,000 patients
a year, most from the Inland area.

PATIENTS

He hopes to attract many patients who have been traveling to San Diego,
Orange and Los Angeles counties.

The hospital is expected to shorten the waiting time for patients who would
otherwise be treated at other medical facilities operated by the Seventh-day
Adventist institution.

The 465-bed Loma Linda University Medical Center and its adjoining 220-bed
children's hospital, both at the university's headquarters on Anderson
Street in Loma Linda, serve 1,000 outpatients a day in addition to inpatient
care.

Specialty hospitals focus on cardiac, orthopedic, women's medicine or
surgical procedures, advocates say, to reduce costs by focusing their
mission. Critics say they siphon off the most profitable procedures without
providing emergency and indigent care.

In late 2003, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated there were
at least 100 such hospitals, with two-thirds of those in seven states west
of the Mississippi River, including California.

Patients at the Loma Linda University Heart and Surgical Hospital will spend
two hours to three days at a time in the hospital.

AMENITIES

They will be treated in spacious operating rooms. The facility is outfitted
with such high-tech amenities as robotic surgery and movable operating
tables on which patients can be prepped and anesthetized in a separate room
and be wheeled unconscious into and out of surgery. 'We don't have to lift
patients onto the operating table and the patient doesn't have to be awake
while they're being rolled down the hallway to surgery,' said Dr. John Kim,
an obstetrician-gynecologist who will be using the new hospital. 'I think it
will take away a lot of the anxiety.' Sixteen patient rooms are private and
equipped with chairs that fold out into beds for family members. The rooms
have private outdoor patios.

Patients will order room-service gourmet meals on their flat-screen
television monitors and can order meat, while the hospital's 125 staff
members dine on vegetarian food in the cafeteria.

A new, second-generation da Vinci robotic surgery system has been installed
in the new hospital, and a first-generation, $1.4 million robot will be
moved to the specialty hospital from Loma Linda University Medical Center
across town.

The devices allow doctors to sit at a console and manipulate four robotic
arms that make half-inch cuts and perform intricate surgery that would
otherwise require long incisions and take longer for recovery. 'The best
example from our point of view is gynecological cancer surgery,' said Dr.
Kevin Balli. 'In cancer surgery, there are lymph nodes that (need) to be
reached in areas that are higher up in the body than can easily be reached
with our current robot. With the new robot, we can actually turn and look up
in the upper area, get those lymph nodes out, and hopefully improve the
outcome for the patient.'

FINANCES

The new hospital, on Barton Road at New Jersey Street in Loma Linda, was
purchased this past year from a consortium of Inland doctors and other
investors. It was bought and completed at a cost of about $110 million.

It was financed with the sale of tax-exempt bonds sponsored by the city of
Loma Linda and to be repaid with profits from the hospital. The bonds were
sold despite an economic downturn that prompted many investors to shy away
from municipal offerings. The city's bond counsel emphasized that the city
would not be liable if the bonds were not repaid.

Almost four years ago, Loma Linda University Medical Center joined Redlands
and Riverside community hospitals and St. Bernardine Medical Center in a
public relations battle aimed at discouraging the Loma Linda City Council
from approving plans for the hospital.

Opponents of the specialty facility contended it would hurt the ability of
area hospitals to provide poor and uninsured patients with emergency care
because the new hospital would have 'cherry picked' patients seeking
lucrative elective surgery. They argued it would not be in the public
interest to build a specialty hospital.

Following a bitterly divisive public debate, a three-member majority of the
Loma Linda council voted in September 2005 to issue a development permit.

Council members said the land was properly zoned and that they had no
authority to base a decision on the economic health of competing hospitals.

Since purchasing the hospital, Loma Linda University officials have
contended that their opposition centered on the way the specialty hospital
was to have been run -- serving only patients with insurance or those who
could afford surgery.

The new hospital, in conjunction with the medical center, will treat the
uninsured and indigent, according to an earlier statement from Mel Sauder,
the university's senior vice president for business development.

Reach Darrell R. Santschi at 951-368-9484 or dsantschi@PE.com