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Kaiser Establishes Network to Serve West County Patients

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Beefing up health-care services for its members in western Ventura County, Kaiser Permanente announced Tuesday that it has established a network of doctors and hospitals in Ventura and Oxnard so those patients can receive medical care closer to home.

Starting March 1, Kaiser’s 1,500 subscribers west of the Conejo Grade will be able to take advantage of a range of services offered by the Oxnard-based Sea View Medical Group.

Medical care will also be provided to Kaiser members at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura and St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.

Currently, those patients must travel to Kaiser offices in Thousand Oaks or Simi Valley for basic health care, while the nearest Kaiser hospital is in Woodland Hills.

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This marks the first time in Southern California that Kaiser Permanente has established a network of local health-care providers for its members. And it represents a push on the part of the nationwide health maintenance organization to recruit new members from the west end of the county.

“We’ve been aware that there were members living in Ventura County who have had to travel a distance in order to get their routine care,” Kaiser spokesman Dr. Jeffrey Selevan said. “What we’ve done is create a network of local, but affiliated, providers to meet their needs as efficiently and quickly as possible. Our hope is that this effort will grow and prosper.”

For Kaiser members--in an area stretching from Point Mugu to Camarillo to Ojai--the move will allow them to choose from Sea View’s network of 80 primary-care physicians and more than 200 specialists in the west county.

The medical group, which boasts 27,000 members, also operates four urgent-care centers, two in Oxnard and one each in Ventura and Camarillo.

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In turn, Sea View doctors will be able to tap Community Memorial and St. John’s hospitals under the new agreement to provide inpatient care for Kaiser patients.

“We’re very supportive of this proposal because it’s good for Kaiser members,” said Daniel Herlinger, St. John’s president and chief executive officer. “It broadens their access and allows them to use facilities and services in western Ventura County.”

Kaiser Permanente has more than 33,000 members in the county, almost all in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley.

Traditionally, those patients have been funneled to Kaiser facilities. However, Selevan said there was a need to extend services to Kaiser members in areas where the potential for growth has not justified the capital investment of opening new medical offices.

The answer has been creation of these health-care networks, contracting with local providers to manage the full range of care for Kaiser members. At the same time, members continue to have full access to all of the HMO’s doctors, clinics and hospitals in other areas.

“We are firmly committed to the basic tenet of our group plan,” Selevan said. “However, we also recognize that there are local areas that could benefit from having Kaiser Permanente as a health-care option.”

Services from the local providers will be available to all Kaiser members in western Ventura County except those enrolled in the group’s Senior Advantage plan.

Extension of services to those members is pending approval by the California Department of Corporations and the federal Health Care Financing Administration. Until approval is granted, those members will continue to receive health services at other Kaiser Permanente facilities.

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Ultimately, Kaiser officials hope that the health-care network will help generate new members for the HMO. And local health-care representatives believe that that will be the case.

“If patients have had the option of choosing Kaiser in the past, they probably haven’t because of the lack of a close physician’s network,” said Mercedes Haefs, Sea View’s executive director. “I think this will be a good opportunity for Kaiser.”


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