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HOSPITAL OB WARD ON HOLD; SAFETY BILL FORCES WAIT OB WARD OPENING AT HOSPITAL DELAYED.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Lancaster Community Hospital has put on hold plans to build an obstetrics ward pending completion of a study of what the hospital will need to do to meet post-Northridge Earthquake safety standards.

Hospitals have to come up with a plan by January 2001 to meet stiffer building standards passed by state lawmakers after the January 1994 quake. The work must be done by 2008, or in the case of some newer buildings by 2030.

``Part of what's driving (the obstetrics ward delay) is we have to find out what we are going to have to do to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 1953. We are in the process of having the evaluation done,'' said Chief Executive Officer Michael McAndrew. ``If the report comes back (that) we need to walk away from this building, then it makes no sense to add an OB ward to it. We need that information before we can make an informed decision.''

The hospital has hired an engineering consulting firm to do the study, which has not been completed, McAndrew said.

The legislation requires hospitals to modify their structures to comply with building standards enacted in 1973. Previously, the 1973 standards were not retroactive but applied only to buildings constructed after that year.

Lancaster Community Hospital was built in the 1960s.

Antelope Valley Hospital also has been grappling with the legislation's requirements.

In a presentation last spring, hospital architects reported on the impact of the legislation and recommended it would be more cost-effective to tear down and build anew the older sections of the hospital, which were erected in 1955 and 1962 and constitute about 85,000 square feet of the 300,000-square-foot facility, officials said.

Antelope Valley Hospital has hired architects who are preparing a report that will outline what parts of the hospital should be retrofitted or torn down.

``The documents will contain our plans to comply with the law,'' Chief Executive Officer Mathew Abraham said.

Plans must be submitted to the state by January 2001.

Lancaster Community Hospital had planned to start construction last year on a $4 million obstetrics ward, giving expectant mothers a choice of local hospitals for delivering their babies.

Lancaster Community Hospital officials said a maternity ward would allow the hospital to be more competitive in attracting contracts from health maintenance organizations and other health insurance plans that want full-service hospitals.

Plans called for adding a 12,000-square-foot, 12-bed obstetrics ward that could handle 150 deliveries a month, with six rooms for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum procedures, six additional maternity rooms and a nursery.

Antelope Valley Hospital is now the only local hospital providing obstetric services. About 4,700 to 5,000 babies are delivered there every year.

In March 1996, Paracelsus Health Care Corp. closed Desert Palms Community Hospital, the other Valley hospital with an obstetrics ward. It used to deliver 15 babies a month.

Paracelsus, which also owns Lancaster Community Hospital, planned to open an obstetrics ward there sooner, but the project was put on hold when Paracelsus merged with Houston-based Champion Healthcare Corp. in 1996.

In 1992, Antelope Valley Hospital paid Lancaster Community Hospital $250,000 to drop a 5-year-old antitrust lawsuit alleging AVH engaged in unfair competition by requiring health maintenance organizations and insurance companies to use AVH for all members if any wanted obstetrics services.

Under the settlement, AVH agreed not to engage in the conduct for 18 months.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 18, 2000
Words:573
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