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 Lompoc hospital turns one

Obstetrics nurse Shellie Davis hands new mother Kirstin Pinkerton her baby, Aubrie, in a delivery room as new father Jay Neisinger and Lompoc Medical Center administrator Jim White, right, watch. //Len Wood/Staff

It has been a year since the ceremonial ribbons to the new Lompoc Valley Medical Center was cut, but the enthusiasm for the cutting-edge facility still lingered as if it was still the opening day. 

Alice Milligan, president of the Lompoc Hospital Foundation, said the new medical facility never would have happened if it wasn’t for the overwhelming community support and the earnestness of health-care workers. 

“Reactions from the community have been very positive,” Milligan said. “I’ve even heard people coming from other communities rave about the hospital. It’s not only beautiful and gorgeous; it’s a very functioning hospital with excellent people servicing our community.”

Compared to the old hospital on Hickory Avenue, it was night and day,  Milligan said, judging by personal experience. 

“It is a lot more geared toward patient care, individual treatment rooms and much more private,” she explained. “It’s much more efficient for the workers and the patients.”

A bond measure was approved at an overwhelming 87 percent by the community, giving the hospital $75 million to build the center. The hospital foundation also elected to have a $4 million capital campaign to contribute toward equipment and necessities not paid for by bond revenue. 

“I don’t think you will see that anywhere else,” Milligan said. “It’s unreal that the Lompoc Healthcare District Board of Supervisors was able to get support of the bond issue and deliver the facility on budget and on time. It’s phenomenal during a time like this.”

Board President Frank Signorelli agreed.

“The challenge was to stay on budget. The old hospital wasn’t big enough and we were reaching our limits,” Signorelli said. “New regulations called to tear up walls, that would’ve been much more expensive. Now we have a new center, people are more confident because of what we’re able to do.”

“The main thing is, we always felt the most important goal was for our patients to get the best quality of care,” Signorelli said. “Now we have an even better emergency room, scanners we didn’t have and patients are able to be treated faster.”

Medical center CEO Jim Raggio said he was thankful that the transition from the old facility to the new center has been remarkably smooth.

“We did plan for issues to crop up when we moved in,” Raggio said. “Maybe there was something we left out or we didn’t plan for all contingencies. But they have almost been zero.”

Initially, there were concerns that the new designs of the building may be problematic. 

“Things may look good on paper, but when the workers start their work, we were afraid that it may not work as well as expected,” Raggio said. “But there were actually very little negligence of the work spaces.”

The occupancy rate was up 15 percent and in retrospect, Raggio said, he thought they would have planned to have more beds in, especially in the critical care unit.

“But this is one of those things that’s part of the tough decision-making,” Raggio said. “It’s part of staying on the budget, and I think we really nailed it.”

One of the very few low points so far was a kitchen interceptor creating gas build up.

“There were some issues in the kitchen,” Raggio said, “but it was quickly resolved.” 

Although the new medical center was up and running smoothly, Raggio will not be neglecting the old hospital any time soon. 

A $10 million remodeling deal will be geared toward setting up a program that will help military members and law enforcement officers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorders.

Plans for a sleep disorder center and building a radiation oncology site was also in the works. 

“This will enable us to keep the old hospital,” Raggio said.   

One of the first complaints he got from the community was the fact the hospital did not look like a hospital.

“I chuckled when I heard comments like that because I thought that was the whole point,” Raggio said. “We have a warm building with state-of-the-art everything, 99 percent of the people are just in awe.”

“There are a lot of things people can do here while getting cared for,” he said, “We have the gardens and plenty of local art on display. It’s really a source of community pride.”

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