County Hospital Plan Lands in Court Again
A private hospital’s attempts to block construction of a $51-million outpatient wing at the Ventura County Medical Center is back in court--again.
Saying the project threatens its own business, Community Memorial Hospital last week turned in a petition with more than 50,000 signatures to place a countywide referendum on the public hospital project before voters on March 26.
But the county immediately turned around and filed a lawsuit last Thursday against Community Memorial, claiming its referendum qualified too late for the ballot and therefore should be declared invalid. The lawsuit also states that the referendum would be costly to the county and would cause division in the community.
In the county’s complaint, County Counsel James McBride wrote that the referendum would not only cost the county to place on the ballot but would delay the issuance of financing certificates to pay for the project’s construction.
That could cause the county to miss favorable market conditions and possibly to lose state and federal reimbursement funds, McBride wrote.
Community Memorial’s referendum would permanently block financing for the public hospital project. The private hospital, which has already lost a lawsuit against the county, has charged that the new facility will drive the county deeper into debt and ultimately be used to lure private patients from other hospitals.
County officials said that the new outpatient wing is not an expansion, as Community Memorial alleges, but a consolidation of outpatient clinics now housed in leased and, in some cases, dilapidated buildings.
Officials said the new wing will actually save the county money in the long-run because it will no longer have to pay rent.