by George Bischalaney
President & CEO, Eden Medical Center
The first of this month marked one year since the celebratory groundbreaking for construction of the new hospital in Castro Valley. Passing this one-year milestone is worthy of a little reflection on the long journey to get here.
The concept of a new hospital first surfaced in the late 1990s, brought about by legislation created as a result of the Northridge earthquake that damaged several hospitals to the point that patients and staff were endangered and operations were curtailed. In California, and perhaps more so in the Bay Area, such a danger needed to be remedied.
Stimulated by the new State requirements, Eden Medical Center soon came to the conclusion that a replacement facility was a much better long-term investment for the community than complex and costly repairs and retrofitting. With the building being nearly 50 years old at the time, and the delivery of hospital services dramatically changed from the 1950s when Eden Hospital was originally designed, it was the easy decision to make. Financing the project was another matter.
Gratefully, the commitment of Sutter Health allows us to be where we are today. After many years of planning, with stops and starts in trying to find the right plan, the right place, the right size at the right cost, our new hospital project was funded, and site work began right away.
Our goal remains to have the new hospital open by 2013 in order to meet Claifornia seismic safety requirements. It will be a remarkable building itself, an icon on the hill in Castro Valley that will be a source of pride for the entire area. More important, it will be here to take care of people when they need it most, and certainly when that long-anticipated earthquake strikes the Bay Area, perhaps on our own Hayward Fault. While hoping that never occurs, we will be ready and capable of safely continuing care for our community.
by George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center
Nearly a year after the California Nurses Association filed a challenge to prevent Sutter Health from rebuilding Eden Medical Center, the petition has been denied. The judgment by Alameda County Superior Court was entered on July 7, 2010, and the Order Denying the Petition is now on the court’s website case # RG09462329. You can also view a PDF version of the judge’s order.
For all of us at Eden Medical Center, and more importantly, residents of Alameda County, this is very good news. We have always believed that this misguided attempt to stop a State-mandated rebuilding project was not based upon merit. Gratefully, the court agreed with our position.
On July 1, 2009, we broke ground to begin the project, just weeks after receiving approval of our Environmental Impact Report from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Despite the union’s challenge filed last year, work continued without hesitation. As a result, we remain on the very tight schedule to meet the opening date of January 2013. Any delay caused by this action would have put the timely opening, if not the project, in jeopardy.
When completed, the 230,000-square-foot hospital and 80,000-square-foot medical office building will provide assurance to the people of Alameda County that it will not only withstand a significant earthquake, but remain operational to aide victims affected by it.
The entire steel framework has been completed, and work continues to at a rapid pace. Weather permitting through the end of this year, the project team hopes to have the exterior and roofs completed, weather tight before the spring rains, and begin working in earnest on the interior finishes.
Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director
While California earthquake safety legislation is the driving force behind new hospital construction such as ours, earthquake safety doesn’t begin or end with new construction. For many years, Eden Medical Center has participated in the California Strong Motion Instrumentation Program (CSMIP) by placing seismic motion sensors in the building to gather vital information when an earthquake strikes.
Recently, the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project team reached agreement with the California Department of Conservation to place sensors in the new hospital once it is completed. The agreement is good news for seismic research, and it ensures that Castro Valley joins other Sutter hospitals with seismic sensors, including Sutter Coast Hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Novato Community Hospital. New construction at Mills Peninsula and California Pacific Medical Center will also have seismic instrumentation to provide essential data on San Andreas fault activity and to record the performance of the unique seismic structural systems employed at these facilities.
The instruments are part of a statewide network of strong motion instruments that ensures any strong ground motion, from a moderate to larger size earthquake, in California will be recorded.
Monitoring the Data
The CSMIP installations are advanced earthquake monitoring devices called accelerographs, which are placed at various representative geologic foundation materials to measure the ground shaking. When activated by earthquake shaking, the devices produce a record from which important characteristics of ground motion (acceleration, velocity, displacement, duration) can be calculated.
Accelerographs that are installed in buildings such as hospitals, bridges, dams, utilities and industrial facilities are selected by engineers and scientists representing industry, government, and universities. The program has installed more than 900 stations, including 650 ground-response stations, 170 buildings, 20 dams and 60 bridges. Many of these installations can be found locally along the Hayward fault (see map for more information).
The Office of Statewide Health and Planning and Development (OSHPD) arranged for CSMIP to begin instrumenting hospital buildings in 1989, and the program has instrumented 29 hospitals and health facilities throughout California.
Significant strong motion records have been helpful in shaping California’s seismic safety standards. Data gathered from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, for example, led to changes in California’s Uniform Building Code and gave engineers a greater understanding about the integrity of building structures after an earthquake.
The CSMIP is a program within the California Geological Survey of the California Department of Conservation and is advised by the Strong Motion Instrumentation Advisory Committee, a committee of the California Seismic Safety Commission. Current program funding is provided by an assessment on construction costs for building permits issued by cities and counties in California, with additional funding from the California Department of Transportation, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the California Department of Water Resources, and other agencies.
To learn more about the data collection and dissemination process, visit the CSMIP Website. To view existing data gathered from recent California earthquakes, visit the Center for Engineering Strong Motion Data.
All photos courtesy of the California Department of Conservation.
by Jeffrey W. Wright, Heliplanners, Aviation Planning Consultants
Heliplanners is proud to have been involved with the replacement hospital project at Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley. One of the first items in this major project was to relocate the existing at-grade helistop (helicopter landing area) to make room for construction of the new hospital building. Heliplanners was brought on board to assist the overall project team with the site selection, planning, design and permitting for the new helistop.
The selected site provides ready access to the Emergency Department while meeting all aviation design criteria including the all-important airspace obstruction-clearance criteria. The site presented some challenges to build in an area that will be used throughout construction, and then link to the new hospital once it opens in 2013. We had to take into consideration the airspace clearance, existing structures, ongoing construction and most direct access to the Trauma Center. The first step was for the construction crews to prepare the site, which was to grade a small hill just 150 feet from the existing location.
With a nod toward overall community disaster preparedness, the new helistop is designed to accommodate aircraft as large as the Sikorsky Blackhawk, which is used by most military branches including the Coast Guard and National Guard. This allows the Medical Center to accommodate that helicopter for disaster relief in event of a major earthquake, wildfire, terrorist attack, airline or train accident, etc. Of course, the typical patient transports would be provided with much smaller helicopters locally by REACH, CALSTAR, Stanford LifeFlight and CHP.
Heliplanners assisted Sutter Health‘s project team by providing liaison and permitting assistance with the Federal Aviation Administration, Caltrans Division of Aeronautics and the Alameda County Airport Land Use Commission. We also assisted the project team with countless details related to construction of the helistop to ensure that, when completed, it would qualify for the Heliport Permit issued by Caltrans Division of Aeronautics during its final inspection. Caltrans inspected the helistop and issued the permit on October 27, 2009.
Heliplanners, based in Temecula, California, has assisted hospital, law enforcement, fire department and corporate clients with heliport development throughout the United States since 1987. In that time, we have been involved with well over 125 heliport projects in over 20 states. We congratulate Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley on the excellence of its approach to the entire hospital reconstruction project, providing a state-of-the-art medical center for Castro Valley residents.
Economic Survey Shows 64% of Hospitals
Cannot Secure Funds for Seismic Compliance Mandate
The nation’s ongoing credit crisis and deteriorating revenues, caused in large part by governmental underfunding, is jeopardizing the ability of California’s hospitals to comply with state-mandated deadlines for seismic retrofitting, according to an updated economic impact report released today by the California Hospital Association (CHA).
The report, which is based on a survey of hospital chief financial officers (CFOs) conducted in April 2009, shows that 64 percent of hospitals report that they will not be able to access the capital necessary to comply with the state’s 2013/2015 seismic deadlines. More than a quarter of hospitals statewide (28 percent) have seen their interest expenses increase during the first quarter of 2009, while many other hospitals have been frozen out of the credit market entirely. As a result, hospitals throughout California are faced with limited access to capital and increased costs of borrowing. These dual challenges come at a time when hospitals are facing an unfunded mandate for seismic improvements estimated to cost up to $110 billion without financing charges.
“This report makes clear that revisiting the current timelines for the seismic mandate is essential,” said CHA President and CEO C. Duane Dauner. “The faltering economy is forcing all segments of our society to make difficult decisions. For many community hospitals, these decisions come down to whether or not they will be able to ensure that patients have access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Under current state law, the state could force hospital buildings that are not in compliance with the seismic standards by January 1, 2013 (or January 1, 2015, if an extension has been granted) to close their doors to patient care. An estimated 900 acute-care hospital buildings, out of a total of 2,700 structures, face closure if they cannot meet the 2013/2015 deadlines.
In order for hospitals to access affordable capital for projects such as those related to the seismic mandate, creditors and rating agencies evaluate a hospital’s balance sheet and its demonstrated financial stability. Creditors also look for sustained operating results, specifically operating income of greater than 3 percent. In aggregate, California hospitals reported operating margins of less than 1 percent for each of the last three years, with margins in 2007 and 2008 in the red, according to the CHA report.
Among the factors impacting operating margins is a significant increase in the number of uninsured patients seeking care in hospital emergency rooms. According to the CHA report, more than 57 percent of hospitals have seen a rise in the number of uninsured patients during the first quarter of 2009, most likely as a result of rising unemployment and the loss of job-based health coverage. This is a 22 percent increase since CHA released its first economic impact report in January. Additionally, more than half of California’s hospitals are reporting a decrease in inpatient admissions and elective procedures.
In 2008, the costs of uncompensated care provided by California hospitals totaled $11.3 billion. Of that amount, Medicare payment shortfalls accounted for nearly $3.7 billion, while Medi-Cal underpaid hospitals to the tune of $4.1 billion. An additional $2.1 billion in 2008 losses are attributable to bad debt and charity care.
“California hospitals are not unique to the negative impacts of the economic recession,” Dauner noted. “The unfunded seismic mandate, however, places an extraordinary burden on our community hospitals at a time when they can least afford it.”
Access the full copy of the special report, called California Hospitals and the Economy — Ongoing Credit Crisis Jeopardizes Seismic Compliance Mandate.
Sutter Medical Center Faces Costly Delay, Loss of Construction Jobs as State Deadline Looms
The California Nurses Association (CNA) has filed a lawsuit that threatens the future of the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley now under construction.
“That the nurses union would sue to stop us from building our new hospital after a decade of planning is extremely frustrating to our employees, physicians, volunteers and patients who have worked so hard and so long for this,” said Eden Medical Center President & CEO George Bischalaney. “This political action by the union hurts everyone, puts thousands of jobs in jeopardy, threatens the future of the hospital and could cause irreparable harm to the community.
“This type of action drives up the cost of health care for everyone. After an exhaustive and inclusive public process, the union’s lawsuit could mean will not be able to meet the State’s 2013 deadline to replace the Eden hospital. Not meeting the deadline could result in closure of current hospital before the new hospital is completed and certified for occupancy.”
The Environmental Impact Report and land use entitlements were approved by the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council, the Alameda County Planning Commission and Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The first phase of construction has been approved by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Alameda County granted necessary permits and construction started July 1.
The new medical campus will create more than a 1,000 union jobs during the three years of construction and pump millions of dollars into the local economy benefiting many local businesses.
Construction crews demolished the vacant Pine Cone Apartment complex and began relocating the helipad and are readying the site for the foundation of the $320 million, seven-story, 130-bed hospital and regional trauma center. The new medical center will expand needed emergency and urgent care services. A new 80,000-square-foot medical office building for physicians is also planned. Sutter Health is financing the entire project with no public taxes or funding.
Sutter has invested more than $200 million in capital in Eden Medical Center’s facilities since acquiring the hospital from the Eden Township Healthcare District in 1998. The new hospital and medical office buildings would bring this investment in the regional medical campus and trauma center to more than $600 million by 2013.
By George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center
Health care reform is on the agenda, again. The stakes are high, but our President is determined to make some significant changes. As the discussion moves from general to specifics, special interests are staking out their positions. None of the stakeholders—hospitals included—wants to feel the impact or be at a disadvantage.
Amidst the demand for cost reduction and health care coverage for all, there is and must be continued investment in care. Physicians demand it. They expect to be able to practice with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to produce outcomes that meet national, state and local quality standards. Patients demand it. They want to know that their local hospital has the right number of well-trained staff as well as the latest diagnostic and treatment equipment, and contemporary facilities.
With this backdrop of conflicting needs, Eden Medical Center is about to begin a three-year project that will result in the replacement of the Castro Valley hospital. The project cost is estimated to be $320 million. The current 55-year-old building is anything but contemporary. With few private rooms, small operating rooms and inadequate support space for clinical services, a new hospital is very much needed.
Eden Medical Center has served the community well, but it was not designed for patient comfort and needs, more for staff needs and functionality. While our project may seem ill timed given the uncertainty of hospital reimbursement, we are required to meet California legislated standards for seismic safety in hospitals. And it truly is needed.
We’ll celebrate our long sought goal with a ground-breaking ceremony on July 1st. Then we’ll spend the next three years continuing the investment in the new buildings and equipment, while observing and hoping that decision makers do not enact legislation that essentially penalizes us for the commitment we are making. When we celebrate the grand opening and our new beginning early in 2013, it should be with the same hope and dreams as those who celebrated the first ceremony in 1954.
By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director
After much debate and public input, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to certify the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) and approve the zoning and land use entitlements for the new hospital to replace 54-year-old Eden Medical Center.
Passage of the EIR and land use entitlement approvals is a major milestone for the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project—and the communities that will be served by this new, state-of-the-art hospital and adjoining medical office building.
About 20 speakers addressed the Board of Supervisors about the new hospital as well as concerns about future plans for San Leandro Hospital. Eden President & CEO George Bischalaney expressed to the Board members the overwhelming support for the new hospital, even among those who encouraged rejection of the EIR to “save San Leandro Hospital.” Bischalaney and others urged Board members not to delay approvals in order to meet “a very tight project timeline” and advised the Board not to tie the new hospital project to the uncertainty around San Leandro Hospital’s future.
In the end, the Board of Supervisors maintained that its obligation was to make a decision on the land use entitlement proposal before them. However, Board members promised to continue to work with Sutter and the District to come up with an optimal plan for San Leandro Hospital, and to meet the health care needs of the communities.
We are grateful to the many people of Eden Medical Center, San Leandro Hospital and our communities for participating in this process. We had tremendous support at both Board of Supervisors meetings, through the petitions, and all the phone calls and letters of encouragement.
What Happens Now?
The Board’s approval clears the way for SMCCV to use the designated property to build the new hospital, which will be on the northwest side of the Eden Medical Center campus, adjacent to the existing hospital.
In the coming weeks, we will file the appropriate permits to begin work on the land, including the demolition of the vacant apartment building and other site improvements, and the foundation work for the actual construction of the new hospital. Oversight and approval for the further construction is handled by the
California Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development.
The immediate work around the campus will get the land ready for construction and help minimize delays so we can proceed with building the new hospital as soon as possible in order to meet the deadline for State-mandated earthquake safety requirements.
We look forward to moving ahead with the project. As always, your questions and comments are welcome on this blog and on our social networks!
We could really use your support! The Alameda County Board of Supervisors will meet this Tuesday, June 9th, at 1:00 p.m. to make the final decision whether or not to build the new hospital to replace Eden Medical Center and pass the FEIR (Final Environmental Impact Report). We all know the value of having a hospital in our own backyards.
The meeting starts at 1:00, but Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley is on the agenda at 2:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Administration Building, Board Chambers, 1221 Oak Street, 5th Floor, Room 512, in Oakland. If you would like to read the Board’s agenda in advance, please click and download the PDF file here (see page 2).
We are also still taking signatures on the online petition, if you want to add your name and comments there. Additionally, your comments are always welcome here on this blog.
By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director
To follow up on the May 12, 2009 Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, the decision to certify the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been delayed to June 9th to address concerns raised about San Leandro Hospital, which is leased and operated as part of Eden Medical Center, but owned by the Eden Township Healthcare District (the District). For more information, please see our previous blog post.
In the days prior to the May 12th meeting, after many rounds of public commentary, and after the EIR and related land use entitlements were approved by the Castro Valley MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) and the Alameda County Planning Commission, several community members and labor representatives raised last minute concerns about parts of the EIR. Those opposed to the EIR certification claim that there was not an adequate assessment of the impact of any possible closure or change of services at San Leandro Hospital, despite the fact that the EIR consultant and County planning staff have stated that the EIR is complete and the issues around San Leandro Hospital, while not related to the project, have no impact on the project. Supervisor Nate Miley made a motion for the Board to meet again to make the decision on June 9, 2009, which would provide attorneys for Alameda County an opportunity to examine these claims in more detail.
Supervisors Miley and Haggerty voiced their concerns about speakers making false or misleading allegations as a political tactic, in order to delay the EIR approval process, thereby “holding the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project for ransom,” which he and the other Supervisors warned could endanger the future of both Eden and San Leandro Hospitals. While there has been no decision by Sutter Health or the District on the future of San Leandro Hospital, the issue remains a topic of community discussion.
Eden Medical Center President & CEO George Bischalaney and other Sutter and Eden project team members emphasized the urgency of not going beyond June 9th to approve the EIR, as the delay of even a month could significantly hold up construction and may cause Sutter Health to withdraw its support from both hospitals. Sutter Health has already promised the $320 million to pay for the completion of the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley.
At the conclusion of the May 12th meeting, the four Supervisors present, with Supervisor Keith Carson absent, voiced their support for the new hospital project and the need to rebuild Eden Medical Center. They also are concerned about the future of San Leandro Hospital, and that concerns over San Leandro should perhaps be discussed in another forum, unrelated to the land use entitlements for Eden.
As our project team discussed in previous articles and blog posts and at the hearing, any delays in approvals and construction have serious repercussions, in terms of meeting state deadlines to rebuild, in creating a safe environment for patients and staff, and in funding this major project. The new hospital must be rebuilt, or it will close as an acute care facility effective January 1, 2013. We now have before us a fully funded hospital project—without public funding or taxes—that will secure the future of Eden Medical Center, preserve jobs and bring nearly 1,000 construction jobs to the region at a time when the economy is depressed and construction is drying up.
As I stated before, the issues around San Leandro Hospital are complex and important. The community has a right to know what is happening. But the information being discussed now is no different that it has been for the past several years: the hospital is struggling and must be reinvented to bring value to the community and ensure that it can sustain itself over time. It is clear to me that the residents of San Leandro desire a full service community hospital, yet the majority of them will never use it. The community and local elected officials have known that this is a concern, and yet this last minute effort to stop the EIR based on what some claim to be “new information” is not justified. San Leandro Hospital, its employees, physicians and patients need to be part of the solution for the hospital, to be discussed in its own forum with regional providers who can bring truth and substance to the discussion. It should not be used as a political maneuver to stop Sutter Health from rebuilding Eden.
Please speak up, let our Board of Supervisors know they must not delay any further. These delays put both hospitals in jeopardy. I encourage you to stand up and let your voice be heard on this issue. Don’t just wait for the next hearing, but instead pick up the phone or send a letter to the Board and let them know you support the new hospital project, and encourage them to certify the EIR so the project can move forward before it’s too late.
Supervisor Nate Miley — 510-272-6694
Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker — 510-272-6693
Supervisor Gail Steele — 510-272-6692
Supervisor Keith Carson — 510-272-6695
Supervisor Scott Haggerty — 510-272-6691