CAMARILLO : Panel to File Suit Over Hospital Merger

The Camarillo Health Care District board voted unanimously Tuesday to file a lawsuit over the merger of the city's only hospital with an Oxnard medical center.

The board's attorney, Eve Triffo, said she will file suit in Ventura County Superior Court asking for a judge to interpret a state attorney general's ruling issued earlier this week on the merger of Camarillo's Pleasant Valley Hospital and St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.

The attorney general ruled that the merger could proceed if St. John's agreed to continue operating indefinitely "a general acute-care hospital serving Camarillo."

Officials from the two hospitals interpret the ruling to mean that even if Pleasant Valley eventually becomes a nursing home or something other than a full-service hospital, St. John's could fulfill the obligation by serving Camarillo residents.

But Triffo and health care board members believe that the ruling means that St. John's must keep Pleasant Valley open as a full-service hospital indefinitely.

New board member Jim Prosser, a 43-year-old attorney who was appointed and sworn in Tuesday, participated in the 5-0 vote.

Prosser, who has been active in an anti-merger group called Save Our Hospital, will serve out the two-year term of former board member Paul Rockenstein.

Rockenstein resigned Nov. 27 because he disagreed with three board members who were elected that month and have vowed to go to any length to fight the merger.

The decision to file suit is the latest in a series of steps that the health district board has taken to stop the merger.

The board is also pursuing legal action to condemn Pleasant Valley Hospital, allowing the health district to take control of the facility.

Triffo added that the board may seek an injunction to delay the merger, which is scheduled to occur next month, until a judge decides the case.

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