Supervisor Urges Replacement for High Desert Hospital

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich plans to ask the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to approve replacing county-owned High Desert Hospital with a new facility in the fast-growing Antelope Valley, the supervisor's staff said Thursday.

"We can't keep up with the growth of this community," said Walter Gray, administrator of the 171-bed hospital. "There really is a tremendous need."

Antonovich's proposal that a 270-bed hospital be built in Lancaster on 40 acres of county-owned property is on the agenda for the board's Tuesday meeting. The facility would cost about $171 million and would be completed in 1997.

Antonovich will ask the board to allocate $1.4 million for a site survey and architectural plans for the initial phase of the proposed hospital. Some of the money needed to build the hospital could be obtained from the state, the supervisor said.

In the first phase, a birthing center would be built to handle the increased volume of deliveries in the area. High Desert, which originally was built as a tuberculosis hospital for jail inmates, is not large enough to have an obstetrics wing. Instead, the county contracts with Antelope Valley Medical Center in Lancaster to deliver county patients' babies.

Most of the women who would deliver their babies at High Desert are poor. They now receive prenatal care at either the county health center in Lancaster or at High Desert.

The Antelope Valley, like other areas of the county, is experiencing a boom in births, said Dr. Dorris Harris, chief of public health centers in the North County area.

A pregnant woman who calls for her first appointment has to wait 25 working days to be examined initially at the county clinic, far longer than the county's two-week guideline, Harris said.

Antonovich's motion said county health officials predict that the birthing center, which would also provide prenatal services, could open by 1995 and handle the anticipated volume of deliveries for at least 10 years.

The construction of surgical and medical facilities would complete the second phase of the hospital's construction, Gray said. A third phase would build housing for county nursing home patients and rehabilitation patients recovering from strokes or accidents.

Gray said the hospital is operating at capacity, but is not overwhelmed yet. A new hospital is needed so it can avoid having more patients than beds as the community continues to grow, he said.

The county is exploring potential uses for the High Desert facility if a new hospital is built. It might serve as a hospital for the county's Mira Loma jail, across the street from the hospital, said Tim Moore, an administrative assistant at the hospital. The state, which plans to build a prison nearby, might also wish to use it, he said.

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