Indigent Mothers Won’t Have to Go to County-USC : Supervisors OK Maternity Ward for Olive View

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to add a maternity ward to the nearly complete Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar, a move that will save thousands of indigent San Fernando Valley women each year from having to travel to County-USC Medical Center near downtown to give birth.

The 4-0 vote to add the $5.4-million unit came before the late arrival of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who had expected the item to be debated. Antonovich said he recently asked each of his colleagues to support the addition of a maternity ward to the hospital, which is being built in his district to replace the center destroyed in the Feb. 9, 1971, earthquake.

The action was based on a recommendation from the county’s chief administrative officer that adding the ward to Olive View was cost-effective.


“Construction can be financed through available bond proceeds,” Chief Administrative Officer James C. Hankla said, referring to the bond issue financing the hospital’s construction.

Hankla said a maternity ward at Olive View also “will assist in relieving the severe overload of births at County-USC Medical Center.”

“The overload at County-USC is in part due to the fact that the county currently has no obstetrical service in the San Fernando Valley,” Hankla said.

In the 1983-84 fiscal year, 1,738 babies, or 10% of the total delivered at County-USC, belonged to Valley women, said the Department of Health Services. Another 900 were delivered at Lake View Medical Center in Lake View Terrace and St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank under contracts with the county. Serra Memorial Hospital in Sun Valley was recently added as a private hospital under county contract to provide obstetrical care.

Contributing to the need for the maternity ward, Hankla said, was a 25% increase in births at county facilities during the past five years, “with the trend expected to continue.”

Olive View is scheduled to open in February or March. However, a 10,000-square-foot wing has been left unfinished pending the supervisors’ decision on the maternity ward.


Shortly after supervisors decided in the early 1970s to rebuild the hospital, the inclusion of a delivery room was discussed. However, the county dropped the idea when the federal government would only provide funds for a duplicate of the destroyed hospital, which had no maternity room.

Costs Increase

Since then, construction costs for the hospital, now expected to be $120 million, have grown so much that federal money will pay for only about a third of the total.

The issue arose again in 1983 when supervisors decided to complete rebuilding of the hospital, which had been stalled by uncertainty over county financing. At the time, supervisors put off the question to prevent any more delay in completing the hospital.

Hankla, in recommending that supervisors approve the addition of a maternity ward now, said it would be less costly and less disruptive to start work on it before construction crews leave the site and the hospital opens.

The maternity ward at Olive View is expected to open in July, 1987, with a capacity of 3,500 births a year.

Contents of Unit

The obstetrical unit will contain 29 postpartum beds. The nursery will contain 27 normal-newborn bassinets and 24 special-care bassinets. The unit also will include six labor-delivery-recovery rooms and three surgical delivery suites.


The labor-delivery-recovery rooms enable the mother to labor and deliver “in an environment that is relaxed and homelike, and will make short stays possible,” health officials said. “Family members will be able to support the mothers in labor and during delivery.”