Adventist Puts Satellite Hospital Up for Sale

Times Staff Writer

Glendale Adventist Medical Center has closed most of its satellite campus on South Chevy Chase Drive in southern Glendale and put the 152-bed facility for sale at $16.9 million.

Administrators said the Chevy Chase campus was a financial drain since Adventist took it over in 1978 from the now-defunct Glendale Community Hospital. The facility had a low occupancy rate and efforts to run special programs there for alcoholics and the deaf failed.

"We are over-bedded in the whole nation, in California and in Southern California. And there are too many beds in the Glendale area," Don Prior, executive vice president of Glendale Adventist said, explaining the proposed sale.

Some programs and much equipment from the Chevy Chase complex were moved recently to Adventist's main campus, located on Wilson Terrace near the intersection of the Ventura and Glendale freeways. That northern campus has 452 beds and, by itself, is the largest of the three hospitals in Glendale.

Lower Operating Costs Sought

Prior and others stressed that the proposed sale does not mean Adventist is in trouble. They said the retrenchment will strengthen the not-for-profit medical center, which is part of a national chain affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. "The sale will lower operating costs significantly," said hospital spokesman Jim Gallagher.

For competitive reasons, the complex will not be sold to another acute-care hospital. Instead, Glendale Adventist wants a buyer who would use the buildings for a skilled nursing home, a retirement home or an office complex, Prior said. There is a shortage of nursing home beds in Glendale, which has a large population of the elderly.

The southern facility's three buildings occupy the entire block bounded by Chevy Chase, Garfield Avenue, South Adams Street and Windsor Road in the otherwise residential neighborhood. Altogether, the buildings have 220,000 square feet of space and the property, including a parking lot across Garfield, is 6.1 acres.

One of the buildings is only 10 years old. Its construction put the old Glendale Community Hospital deeply in debt and led, in part, to a managerial takeover by Adventist in 1978 and a merger of the two institutions two years later. Adventist assumed Community Hospital's debts, of which about $9 million remain, Prior said. The sale is expected to clear that.

The merger took place just before a period of retrenchment hit the hospital industry. About four years ago, changes in government reimbursement began to pressure hospitals to cut the length of patients' stays and to emphasize outpatient care.

As a result, the average hospital occupancy rate statewide dropped from about 80% of capacity five years ago to between 60% and 65% now, said David Langness, spokesman for the Hospital Council of Southern California.

Four hospitals in Southern California went out of business in the past two years and several others sold off auxiliary buildings, Langness said. "The trend now is to keep everything on one campus," he explained.

The exterior and grounds of the Chevy Chase campus appear well-maintained, with flowers carefully tended and American flags flying. That belies the fact that much of the facility is now eerily empty. Many rooms are stripped of beds and shelves are bare; nursing stations and operating rooms are clean, but seem to await the return of a long-departed staff.

Over the past two years, Adventist phased out almost all functions there, ending with a move in April to the main campus of an in-patient program for eating disorders such as anorexia.

The hospital had great hopes for a 33-bed unit at the Chevy Chase complex where deaf and hearing impaired patients with all sorts of ailments could go for treatment; rooms were equipped with special communications devices and the staff was trained in sign language.

Family-Practice Clinic Remains

However, that clinic was closed about a year after its 1984 opening, Gallagher said, because deaf people from other areas did not want to travel to Glendale and their doctors often had affiliations with other hospitals.

The only Adventist program remaining at Chevy Chase is an outpatient family-practice clinic where 18 medical residents are trained. The sale prospectus calls for Adventist to lease back that space and for another tenant, a private group of doctors, to remain. Together, the clinics occupy about a fifth of the existing space in the campus buildings.

David Powell, the Grubb and Ellis Co. broker who has the property listed, said some offers to buy the facility were made, but so far none have been accepted. He said the buildings are in good shape yet would require some renovation for different uses. "After all, what do you do with an operating room and an intensive care unit?" he asked.

Prior said he anticipated some community protest about the sale but that he expected most Adventist patients will understand the reasons for it.

The Medical Center's Civic Advisory Board strongly supports the sale, according to Allan R. Stone, the board chairman who is president of Professional Ambulance Service and a former Glendale fire chief. "I do think that it is prudent for the medical center to condense itself into one campus," said Stone.

People familiar with Adventist said having two campuses was unwieldy and, because North Chevy Chase Drive passes near the main campus, confusing. In addition, they said that Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, located on Central Avenue near Glendale's southern border, posed too much competition for Adventist in that part of town.

Gabrielle Hammitt, Memorial's director of public relations, said her institution expects little effect from any sale of the Adventist property even if a skilled nursing care facility moves in. Memorial operates its own skilled nursing care unit but it is usually filled and Glendale needs more beds of that kind, she explained.

Prior said Adventist considered running its own nursing home in the Chevy Chase facility but decided that would not mix well with its emergency and acute care mission.

Glendale Adventist's occupancy rate was about 50% when the total of 604 beds at both campuses were counted. However, now that only the 452 beds at the Wilson Terrace buildings are counted, occupancy is about 70%, which is at least five percentage points above the state average, officials said.

The medical center plans to keep the licenses for the 152 now-closed beds in case it decides to expand in the future, Prior said. However, he said there are no immediate plans to expand at Wilson Terrace.

Pointing out that Glendale Memorial has 310 beds and Verdugo Hills Hospital, the third Glendale hospital, has 158 beds, Prior said: "There are about 900 beds in Glendale and that's adequate."

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