At Hoag, a Healthy New Addition

Times Staff Writer

With more beds and the latest in breast cancer diagnostic tools, the new $200-million women’s center at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach has pushed it to the forefront of healthcare in Orange County.

Located in one of the nation’s wealthiest communities, the hospital also is not without amenities, such as valet parking, a full-time chef and rooms with million-dollar views.

“Hoag is clearly one of Orange County’s premier hospitals,” said Julie Puentes, regional vice president of the Hospital Assn. of Southern California.


The Sue and Bill Gross Women’s Pavilion, which is named for the couple who donated $20 million for its construction, is a 320,000-square-foot addition that nearly doubled the hospital’s medical space.

After nearly four years of construction, the women’s center officially opened Oct. 5. With the addition of 102 private rooms, the hospital has become the largest in the county, with 511 beds. UCI Medical Center in Orange is second largest, with 453 beds, followed by St. Joseph Hospital, with 412.

HealthGrades, a healthcare ratings company, ranked Hoag among the top 5% nationally for orthopedics, joint replacement, critical care and coronary interventional procedures, and in the top 10% for spine surgery and gastrointestinal surgery. The company also gave the hospital excellence awards in women’s health and maternity care.

Hospital officials said Hoag needed the women’s pavilion because the obstetrics department had outgrown the space it had occupied since 1952, when the hospital opened.

In spring 2003 and fall 2004, four hospital officials traveled to women’s hospitals in Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida to get ideas for the seven-story women’s center.

Construction aimed to take advantage of Hoag’s scenic location, on a bluff just east of Pacific Coast Highway, so that the rooms have views of either the ocean, Newport Bay or the mountains.

But even though the hospital has many of the perks of a hotel, Hoag officials say the amenities are not meant to attract the wealthy.

“We provide the same care to millionaires as we would to anyone else,” said Rick Martin, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer.

Indeed, Bill Gross said he didn’t get special treatment when he was hospitalized with kidney stones. The chief investment officer for bond-trading giant Pimco said he not only waited a couple of days to get a room, but got one without a view.

“When you have kidney stones, you don’t give much of a damn about the view,” Gross said.

Like Bill and Sue Gross, Hoag’s other neighbors have also been generous. Community members raised nearly half the price tag of the pavilion. The rest came from the hospital’s reserves and bonds.

But such luxury is out of the question at most hospitals, said Sheryl Skolnick, a healthcare analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners in New York. She said the amenities at hospitals such as Hoag are available only in wealthy areas, where people have good medical insurance and there are few uninsured patients.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles offers patients access to hairstylists, manicures and pedicures for an additional cost. San Ramon Regional Medical Center in the Bay Area offers new parents a celebration dinner for two with a choice of three gourmet entrees served on fine china, accompanied by champagne or sparking cider.

Hoag’s experiences aren’t shared by all Orange County hospitals. Several facilities have struggled financially, including hospitals in Brea, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Orange.

With Hoag’s success comes the expectation of cutting-edge technology, which was at the forefront of its planning effort, said Dr. Richard Afable, the hospital’s president and CEO.The pavilion’s Breast Care Center is the only facility in the county to offer digital mammograms, which allow instant viewing of images on a computer screen.

In a dimly lighted reading room, Dr. Gary Levine reviewed a sharp image of a 58-year-old woman’s breast with a 6-millimeter growth deep in the tissue. He adjusted the contrast and the brightness of the image and magnified the area around the growth to get a better look.

With digital imaging, Levine said, the growth “jumps out at you,” allowing for prompt removal. Otherwise, he thinks it would have taken two years before the growth became large enough for the patient to feel, reducing her survival rate.

“It’s simply a better technology,” said Levine, medical director of the center. “Mammography is all about finding cancers when they’re small.”

Another benefit of digital images, he said, is the ability to e-mail them to other doctors for review.

The facility also houses the county’s only breast magnetic resonance imaging system, which produces images of the inside of the breast. That level of screening is important for patients who have a history of breast cancer, Levine said. In the case of a patient who had a lump removed, an MRI can help determine whether a new lump is scar tissue or cancer.

Afable said that because of an increase in outpatient treatment, the hospital plans to open a clinic offering those services in 2007. A vascular center is set to open four years later. Beyond that, Hoag expects to construct a new building every 25 years.



Hospital grows up, out

Hoag hospital opened in 1952 with 75 patient beds and has added a major building every decade. The Oct. 5 opening of the women’s health center brought the hospital’s bed count to 511. Expansion plans include a facility to house the Heart and Vascular Institute, to open in 2011.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian building additions

1) Original hospital (1952)

opens with 75 beds

2) 4-story expansion (1959)

adds 150 beds

3) Emergency room (1964)

with 15-bed intensive care unit (expanded in 1995)

4) James Irvine Surgical Center (1972)

Outpatient surgery center

5) 10-story patient tower (1974)

472 total hospital beds

6) Chemical dependency center (1987)

22 beds

7) Patty & George Hoag Cancer Center (1991)

(Pedestrian tunnel links cancer center to main hospital)

8) Sue and Bill Gross

Women’s Pavilion (2005)

Brings hospital total to 511 beds

(Bed total reflects loss of some beds to offices and construction.)


Sources: Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian