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Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Lancaster Community Hospital will shut down after its parent company opens a new Palmdale hospital, expected to occur in late 2005, the chief executive officer said Wednesday.

The 117-bed, 600-employee hospital is on a small, cramped site and could cost $31 million to be brought up to the new state earthquake standards that take effect in 2008.

``It makes sense to build a new hospital,'' CEO Robert Trautman said.

Lancaster Community Hospital's buildings could be used for an nursing home, 24-hour urgent care center or psychiatric hospital once the new Palmdale hospital opens, Trautman said.

Trautman's announcement, made at an Antelope Valley Chambers of Commerce luncheon, was confirmation of an action that had long been considered a possibility because of the expense of meeting the earthquake standards.

More than two years ago, when a different firm owned the hospital, officials said they would prefer to build an entirely new hospital on larger grounds, preferably near the Antelope Valley Freeway, than go to expense of refitting the present cramped facility. The hospital's largest building was built in 1955.

Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services, which bought Lancaster Community in January 2002, plans to build a Palmdale hospital on land south of Tierra Subida Road south of Palmdale Boulevard. The city of Palmdale has promised $6.7 million in incentives for the new hospital.

The Palmdale hospital is expected to open in fall or winter 2005, Trautman said.

While no construction has started, architects are working on plans for the hospital, which will resemble other facilities that Universal Health built recently, he said.

The Lancaster Community Hospital announcement means Lancaster may wind up with only one hospital, Antelope Valley, compared to the three it has now. In a cost-cutting move, Los Angeles County officials want to turn High Desert Hospital into an outpatient clinic, though local officials and residents are trying to stave off the closure.

Palmdale lost its only hospital in 1996 with the closure of Desert Palms, becoming what is said to be California's largest city without a hospital. Desert Palms operators said they were losing money because of factors that included the hospital's location on an earthquake fault, which prevented expansion, and too few referrals from area physicians.

Universal operates 97 hospitals and other health facilities in the United States, France and Puerto Rico.

In Palmdale, Universal plans to build a 120-bed hospital that could later be expanded to 200 beds.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 13, 2003

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