Hospital in Van Nuys Is Closed

Times Staff Writer

State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer declined Thursday to intervene in the voluntary closure this week of a 209-bed Van Nuys hospital, despite pleas from a Los Angeles city councilman and a citizens group to take legal action.

On Tuesday, San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West closed Northridge Hospital Medical Center on Sherman Way. A group of doctors has been trying to raise money to buy and operate the hospital. But a private developer reportedly is negotiating to purchase it and turn it into an assisted-living facility.

Opponents say closing the nonprofit hospital adds to a growing healthcare crisis in Los Angeles County. Since the 1980s, 10 trauma centers and 18 emergency rooms have closed.


Councilman Tony Cardenas and about 50 members of the Save Our Valley Healthcare Coalition held a rally Thursday morning in front of the locked emergency room doors, urging the attorney general to use the state Corporations Code to force Catholic Healthcare West to reconsider.

But the attorney general has no plans to do that.

“Under California law, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, this office has no power to intervene to prevent the closure of a nonprofit hospital,” said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar in Sacramento.

An aide to Cardenas said the councilman was asking City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo to press Lockyer to “re-review” the Corporations Code.

Cardenas “feels there is one last hope,” aide Stacy Bellew said. “They should be putting this facility on the market and accepting other offers from people who want to keep it as a hospital.”

The councilman cites a Corporations Code requirement that nonprofit medical facilities get the attorney general’s approval before selling property or liquidating significant assets.

Lockyer’s office, which began studying the issue several weeks ago, takes the position that the code does not apply to hospitals that are already closed.

Dresslar said Lockyer was looking into a separate, unrelated matter involving Catholic Healthcare West and alleged “breaches of fiduciary duty” during negotiations to sell the hospital.

“We will look into those allegations,” he said. “If we determine they’re true, we’ll take appropriate action.” But, he emphasized, “even in that case, the remedy would not be to resurrect the hospital.”

Catholic Healthcare West cited losses of more than $1 million a month when it announced in August it would close the hospital by year’s end. Spokeswoman Angela Jiacobbe declined to comment on Thurs- day’s developments.

The hospital employed about 350 physicians and 800 support personnel, according to Cardenas’ office.

The 426-bed Northridge Hospital Medical Center on Roscoe Boulevard in Northridge, also owned by Catholic Healthcare West, is not affected by the closure.