This is a reprint of an October, 2008, commentary from the West Ranch Beacon news site. I have written about the hospital issue a few times before but now it is different having spent the better part of three days there with my wife Nancy. On Friday she fell down the last three steps of the stairs in our house and got a compound fracture of her lower left leg. A compound fracture is when the bone breaks and is sticking through the skin.
Fortunately, I had taken the day off from work and was at home. I was downstairs and my wife was coming down from the upstairs of the house having just retrieved a piece of paper that she was reading when she slipped. I heard her yell out as she crashed to the floor, and when I came around to the stairway she was on the floor and her left foot was oriented about 90 % from where it normally should have been. It was ugly!
I called 911 right away and the paramedics from Station 124 were at the house within 5 or 6 minutes as was an ambulance that followed a few minutes later. The paramedics were fantastic, and they put a splint on Nancy’s leg and foot to stabilize it and gave her some much needed pain relief as she was starting to go into shock. Several firefighters got her easily onto a stretcher and into the ambulance for the ride to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. I followed suit in my own car on their recommendation.
We could not have been happier with the response and the professionalism of the paramedics and firefighters from Los Angeles County Fire Station 124. Our community is lucky to have that station and equally lucky to have such wonderful firefighter personal staffing it in our community.
The ambulance took off from the house and I followed as long as I could but finally lost them at a red light that I had to stop at by the The Old Road and Stevenson Ranch Parkway. By the time I got to the hospital Nancy was already in the Emergency Room (ER) getting care.
I have not been to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in quite a while except for a tour that Roger E. Seaver, the President and CEO of the facility, gave me last year.
Both of my children were born at a hospital in Tarzana by choice even though we have lived in SCV for decades. We have avoided Henry Mayo whenever possible because of the bad reputation, real or imagined that the hospital has had over the years. Let’s face we have all heard stories or comments that the place is a “butcher shop” or a “sh@# hole”. Certainly Mr. Seaver has been doing an admirable job of trying to turn that perception around.
But nonetheless, we have made it a point to seek our medical care down in the valley south of Santa Clarita. Due to the serious nature of my wife’s injury we had to go to the Henry Mayo ER for immediate care. Believe me, if it was a simple broken bone I would have driven her down to St. Joseph’s or Tarzana in a heartbeat.
Now, I have to tell you that when I pulled around to the ER entrance there was little to no parking in that area. But I finally found a parking space not too far away and made my way over to an entrance which I quickly realized was under construction. I was directed to another entrance further away from the ambulance entrance. It was the waiting room and a hospital employee was in there and reluctantly opened a security door to let me through to the ER. By the way, he never asked for ID or a name, just let me through.
I will tell you upfront that the hospital personal that we encountered for the most part were great. The ER nurses and doctors that tended to my wife were fantastic in every sense of the word. They were professional, knowledgeable and did not hesitate to answer all of our questions.
There were some other hospital employees that wondered over to see my wifeâ€™s broken leg because it was “grotesque”, “it’s not Halloween yet”, “yikes, that’s nasty”, and so on. One orderly even took a photo with his cell phone camera because he likes to “collect” such pictures. That was downright unprofessional and weird!
The ER was clearly not big enough to handle a community the size of SCV. Add to that people using the ER for primary care and you quickly see a large problem. There was a woman in the bed next to my wife who was there because she had a headache/wasn’t feeling wellÂ and she arrived by ambulance. An ambulance!! She decided to leave on her own while we were still there.
If the ER was a microcosm of health care in the US we are doomed! This was reinforced by one of the ER nurses who said if there ever was a catastrophe in Santa Clarita we would all be screwed. She leaned over and said to both us, in a hushed whisper; “that we should make sure we are stocked up with plenty of “ammo and water”. (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!!)
Have you ever seen a ball of rubber bands? That is what I equate Henry Mayo Hospital to because it was a small community hospital that has been adding on space for years in order to try and stay up with the growth of the area.
There are two things wrong with this; 1) the hospital always appears to be behind the growth curve and playing catch up and 2) there is no real plan for what the community actually needs to sustain itself in the future. In other words, we have a hodge-podge of a hospital complex and a current plan to add more buildings and office space just like adding more rubber bands to the ball.
The current hospital complex is just not big enough to handle the current and expected population growth of the Santa Clarita Valley. This is why I felt like a gerbil running through a maze of tubes in a Habi-trail to get to where my wife was in the emergency room from the waiting room area.
What we need is a regional hospital that is on a larger piece of property more centrally or conveniently located in the Santa Clarita Valley. Now that may not jive with the current hospital owners or the hospital developer or City Council members that have received financial support form any of those participants, but that is what our community needs.
And everyone can sit around fighting and frittering away time to add a few more office buildings to an already to small, poorly located community hospital or we can be bold and come up with a vision of what our Valley really needs now and in the future. Instead of saying “we can’t” because of this or that, how about we start asking “how can we” and start down the road of actually accomplishing something for the good of all the residents that call the Santa Clarita Valley home.
Stay tuned for part II of our experience at the local “small community hospital” including the lack of security.
Dave Bossert- Commentary
Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on a number of boards and councils. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of the West Ranch Beacon.