PHOTO: Kaiser, new Victorville hospital

The Town of Apple Valley released a statement late Thursday afternoon on June 3, 2021 announcing the soon-to-be departure or rather move-out of St. Mary's Medical Center just off Highway 18 on the Northwest end of the Town. 

The site was dedicated in November 1956 and has been a hub of community health in Apple Valley for almost the past 6 and half decades (65 years.) At it's current status, the hospital has grown from its origins as a 29-bed acute care and maternity facility to a 213-bed premier medical center.

According to the release, "California earthquake laws that require hospitals to make costly building upgrades by 2030 may leave Apple Valley without a hospital or emergency room."

“This news is extremely disappointing,” said Town Mayor Curt Emick. “The Town is asking Providence to recognize the commitment of the people who pursued the original fundraising to bring St. Mary Medical Center to fruition, and the fundraising of so many supporters over the years, to keep the hospital open or replace it with one in Apple Valley.”

On the same day, Providence Southern California, who runs St. Mary's in Apple Valley, announced its new partnership with Kaiser Permanente to move its operations to a new hospital it will build in Victorville instead of retrofitting the current building.

HDdailynews.com reached out to Victorville Mayor Debra Jones for an official statement. Jones said "Providence and Kaiser Permanente are industry-leading healthcare providers, and their partnership no doubt will expand options for medical care that is certain to improve the quality of life in our region.  We can’t help but be excited by their investment in the well-being of our High Desert residents."

According to Kaiser Permanente, the new Victorville hospital will have approximately 260 beds and will replace the existing Providence St. Mary Medical Center in the nearby community of Apple Valley. The High Desert community, including its Kaiser Permanente members, will be able to access the new hospital, which is expected to open in 2026. Both Providence St. Mary medical staff, including St. Mary High Desert Medical Group, and Kaiser Permanente physicians will deliver care at the new facility. Providence will serve as the employer and operating manager of the hospital.

“Health care delivery has become very complex and Providence has found that affiliations truly benefit the communities we serve, particularly areas with significant rates of serious health risks,” said Erik G. Wexler, President of Operations and Strategy, Providence – South.

“We are impressed by Kaiser Permanente’s integrated model of high-quality care and see this affiliation as an opportunity that will advance care for all residents of the High Desert community.”

Both organizations are committed to meeting the needs of this underserved region by expanding access to quality and affordable care. The city of Victorville, the largest in the High Desert, has a 22.8 percent poverty rate, which is high compared to state and national averages and includes vulnerable populations that experience health disparities. The hospital will be built on acreage purchased in 2007 for a new St. Mary Medical Center campus and will create new construction jobs in the High Desert. The existing hospital in Apple Valley does not meet the more stringent state seismic requirements that take effect in 2030 and it would be neither financially nor operationally feasible to bring it into compliance. Providence will work with the community to determine the future of the existing Apple Valley site.

“The High Desert community is growing, and we must advance how we deliver health care to meet the changing needs of our community,” said Bill Caswell, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

Dr. Gregory Kelman, Regional Medical Director, Operations, for Southern California Permanente Medical Group said, “This partnership will combine the resources and care networks of both our organizations to provide high quality, affordable health care in the High Desert for years to come.”

The new hospital will retain its Catholic identity and continue to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) for Catholic health care. Kaiser Permanente will continue to arrange for the provision of all the health services for its patients. Both organizations respect one another’s philosophy of health care practices. Providence St. Mary Chief Executive Randy Castillo will maintain his leadership position. Providence will continue to have primary responsibility for operational oversight, with input from Kaiser Permanente.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit our community so hard, highlighted the need for a new hospital that will meet our area’s growing health care needs,” Castillo said. “We sought a partner that shares our goals and our vision to increase access to care, especially in under-served communities.”

Providence and Kaiser Permanente continue to work with state and local officials to address any concerns and to obtain the necessary approvals for the hospital campus. About Providence Southern California Providence Southern California is a not-for-profit Catholic health network with 11 hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, provider clinics, TrinityCare Hospice and its TrinityKids Care pediatric hospice, Providence High School, home health care services, wellness centers and numerous physician groups in its Southern California Region. Together these ministries, including secular affiliates and some representing other faiths, have approximately 31,000 employees – called caregivers – and nearly 5,200 physicians on staff. Providence Southern California is part of Providence, formerly Providence St. Joseph Health, a health system of 111,000 caregivers serving in 52 hospitals, 829 clinics and a comprehensive range of services across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington. PSJH strives to increase access to health care and bring quality, compassionate care to those we serve, with a focus on those most in need.