Despite recent missteps and confusion, Colusa County will once again have a hospital.

But the grand opening for the Colusa Medical Center has been pushed back to late summer or early fall to finish all of the necessary renovations.

Wednesday afternoon, officials from Colusa County and representatives of American Specialty Health Care, the corporation responsible for hospital restoration and management, led a tour through Colusa Medical Center to showcase the progress that’s been made and areas that still need improvement.

The public relations move followed a snag in the development. Late Tuesday, the Colusa County counsel reported that American Specialty was backing out of the deal to re-open the hospital. Wednesday morning, ASH officials said there had been a misunderstanding, and they intended to continue rennovations and eventually re-open the hospital.

Thus far, American Specialty has spent $10 million on facility renovations, which covers the cost of new flooring, exterior and interior wall paint, outside signs and various medical equipment.

American Specialty expects to spend an additional $5 million to $10 million to complete the project.

“We’re dedicated to getting this hospital open,” said Gia Smith, chief executive officer of Central Valley Specialty Hospital, a partner of American Specialty Health Care. “We’re here for the long haul.”

Current projects

Walking into the hospital, the most obvious changes are cosmetic; much of the original tile flooring has been replaced with synthetic hardwood, and the walls were painted beige. Countertops in the lobby and nurse stations were replaced with granite.

“We switched the tile for hardwood floors because we don’t want the patients to feel like they’re in a hospital,” said Dr. Gurpreet Singh, board chairman for American Specialty. “It feels more homey.”

The hospital’s information tech services have also been updated; over 55,000 feet of wire have been run through the hospital’s ceiling to install new internet and nurse response systems. Roughly $60,000 was spent for the update, Smith said.

One of the changes Smith was the most excited about was the upgraded pharmacy, which will be open 24/7. The pharmacy is already equipped with a new electronic prescription dispenser, which will use a program called “Evident” to keep track of medications. The new addition cost roughly $1.2 million, according to Smith.

“Medicine can’t be pulled if it wasn’t ordered by a doctor,” Smith said. “It will help decrease mistakes.”

All patient rooms in the ICU have been outfitted with beds, but American Specialty is working on ordering new beds and curtains for the other patient rooms. Each room will be outfitted with a Smart TV and internet service.

“We want everything to be clean and new when this place opens,” Smith said. “We also want patient stays to be as comfortable as possible.”

American Specialty has acquired some of the medical equipment needed for a full-functioning hospital, but more is still needed. So far, they’ve spent $1.8 million on emergency room equipment. “The majority of the equipment was

taken back when the hospital closed,” said Singh. “So we’re getting everything new and taking doctors’ requests on what they’d like to work with.”

Colusa Medical Center will offer treatment for dialysis for the first time in the hospital’s history. Six dialysis machines have been purchased so far. The hospital will also have a physical therapy center for patients who’ve suffered injuries or a stroke. A hospice will be located in a building outside the hospital; the structure is still being refurbished.

“We’re trying to make the hospital a one-stop service for the community,” Smith said.

A separate waiting room has been added to the radiology department so patients waiting on x-rays don’t have to expose themselves to illnesses in the general waiting area, Singh said.

Outside, American Specialty plans to design a garden with gazebos, trees and other plants to create an outdoor escape for patients staying at the hospital.

Retaining quality physicians:

Physicians have already been hired for the Colusa Medical Center emergency room, and American Specialty Health, the firm that has taken over the hospital, has arranged for surgical specialists to offer their services at the hospital,

said Gia Smith, chief executive officer of Central Valley Specialty Hospital, a partner of American Specialty Health.

For the first time, the Colusa hospital will be able to offer complex surgeries like hip and knee replacement.

However, Smith and Dr. Gurpreet Singh, board chairman for American Specialty, said they needed to offer the medical professionals an incentive to work in Colusa; once the hospital is finished, American Specialty plans to build six townhouse-style apartments directly behind the hospital. Medical professionals can live there full-time, or treat them like a hotel – potentially free of charge.

“We want to attract great doctors and specialists to this hospital, but their biggest complaint was the lack of housing and hotels,” Smith said. “So we decided we’re going to build apartments on hospital grounds so they have a place to stay with their family.”

American Specialty Health reported:

-- Licensing: In addition to structural improvements, Colusa Medical Center needs to receive state licensing before it can start serving patients. The license application is being evaluated and will need to be approved by state employees at the Sacramento and Chico offices before it’s issued. It’s uncertain when they’ll receive the licenses, but the state will also need to send someone to evaluate the building before the grand opening.

-- Hiring: Colusa Medical Center plans to provide 300 jobs to the community; 87 of the positions have already been hired. Currently, 40 members of the staff are already employed and involved in the hospital’s remodeling.

To fill the remaining positions, another hiring event like the job fair held in April will take place in late July.

Positions will be available in all categories, but mostly in janitorial, clerical and food service; but there may be a few medical jobs open.

American Specialty will announce the details for the next hospital job fair on Facebook and local media in the coming weeks.

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