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New community hospital open for business

Facility opens as nurses protest

City Editor

BARSTOW • It was a day nearly two decades in the making, as officials flung open the doors Saturday morning to Barstow’s new state-of-the-art hospital.

“Months of preparations have gone into ensuring that the move happens with as little disruption to our patients as possible,” Punch Fermin, Chief Nursing Officer for the hospital, said in a statement. “Meticulous planning will allow us to quickly and safely transition care to our new facility.”

Barstow Community Hospital staff began relocating inpatients at 6 a.m., with transportation assistance provided over the next few hours by Desert Ambulance’s advanced life support service. Also at that time, the former hospital’s emergency department shut down as the new ER opened for needy patients.

“Opening a new hospital, while continuing to provide safe, compassionate care for our patients at the current hospital, has been a major undertaking,” hospital CEO Sean Fowler said. “We are very fortunate to have dedicated employees, volunteers and physicians.”
The new hospital was prompted by the enactment of Senate Bill 1953 in 1994 following the Northridge earthquake, which required the city to either retrofit the existing 50-year-old hospital or build a new one to meet the standards by 2030. The city decided it would be more cost effective to build a new one.

However, not everyone was celebrating Saturday’s opening.

Registered nurses from the hospital held a candlelight vigil during the evening to highlight their concerns with what they’ve called “management’s misplaced priorities” that placed the construction of a new facility with 15,000 additional square feet before ways to recruit and retain experienced nurses, according to a statement from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

“A hospital cannot be state of the art if it is only a building,” Suzette Pornelos Kaliko, an RN who works in the emergency department at the facility, said in a statement. “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.”

While the new hospital at 820 E. Mountain View boasts an upgraded emergency department that includes a trauma bay, airborne infection exam room and 15 exam rooms, nearly one-half of the emergency RN staff have resigned, the nurses’ union said, fleeing to such places as St. Joseph Health, St. Mary in Apple Valley. Nurses attribute the exodus of RNs to the substandard patient care protections, salaries and benefits that are well below community standards of area hospitals.

“Saturday is an important day for our hospital and it’s extremely unfortunate that the CNA would use this opportunity to stage a disruptive event,” John Rader, spokesman for the hospital, said Friday following the announcement of the vigil. “Our hospital always has been and always will be committed to patient safety and to suggest otherwise creates a distraction from the important information we want to get to the community.”

Rader also cited a study one year ago by The Joint Commission, a leading accreditor of health care organizations in America. In the study, BCH was recognized as one of the nation’s top performers on key quality measures, based on data reported about evidenced-based clinical processes that are shown to improve care for certain conditions.

The California Department of Public Health Licensing and Certification surveyors conducted an extensive review over two days in early October to ensure the new hospital is in compliance with state licensing requirements. Based off that review, the surveyors recommended licensure for the new facility effective Saturday.

“This new facility has some of the latest diagnostic tools and treatment options right here in our community,” Fermin said. “Patients can stay close to home and be treated by clinicians who take pride in providing high quality care for Barstow every day.”

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