Reopening of SP Hospital celebrated with gala fundraiser

December 13, 2006
Santa Paula News

Those who made possible the return of Santa Paula Hospital – notably Dr. Sam Edwards - were celebrated by hundreds of supporters who filled the ballroom at the Ventura Beach Marriott Hotel, where guests ensured the purchase of needed hospital equipment.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThose who made possible the return of Santa Paula Hospital – notably Dr. Sam Edwards - were celebrated by hundreds of supporters who filled the ballroom at the Ventura Beach Marriott Hotel, where guests ensured the purchase of needed hospital equipment.The Santa Clara Valley Wellness Foundation staged “Celebrate the Season” with the Limoneira Co. as well as the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and Brian and Judy Robertson - respectively the Title and Diamond sponsors of the hospital gala – leading a host of event supporters.Limoneira Co. President/CEO Harold Edwards – whose father is Dr. Sam Edwards - was the host of the event.SCVWF Board President Marsha Rea said that the holiday season is the perfect time to “Acknowledge and honor the commitment and hard work of the people of the Santa Clara River Valley, Ventura County Health Agency, Medical Center and the Board of Supervisors whose dedication made it possible for Santa Paula Hospital to reopen.”Rea noted that the “Hospital is perhaps the key element in the linkage of emergency healthcare service for this rural region. We are all delighted to see the lights on the hill shining once again and know that in times of need it is there to provide help and refuge.”Shuttered after bankruptcy was declared in December 2003, the hospital – one of only three in the state built entirely with community donations – provided the only emergency room for the river valley’s 50,000 residents.Purchased by the Ventura County Medical Center in September 2005, the hospital was reopened in July.“We are here to celebrate a miracle,” Dr. Sam Edwards – known affectionately as Dr. Sam, said to rousing cheers.When the “Hospital on the Hill” was opened in 1961, “It didn’t have any federal money, it was done with the community…that was the glory of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital.”About four years ago, when Dr. Sam learned that the hospital was having “severe difficulties, I started working with Dr. Pierre Durand,” the then VCMC Director who had pulled the facility out of bankruptcy in the mid-1980.Durand agreed that the Santa Paula Hospital was a needed addition to the county healthcare system and after a years’ long working team effort – including regular reporting by the Santa Paula Times and Ventura Star - the facility was reopened.“A hospital is not a building but a collection of people” from those involved in the initial effort to save the hospital to those who worked to transform an “empty shell” needing millions of dollars of renovation and equipment replacement to successfully reopen.
Dr. Sam noted that the most important component is a “Community that supports the hospital…never, never, never again let the hospital get away from you!”The design drawing of the hospital by the late noted architect John Stroh was presented to Dr. Sam by Harold Edwards and Peggy Kelly in appreciation for his deep commitment and dedicated efforts in reopening the facility.Supervisor Kathy Long, a leader in the effort to save and then reopen the hospital introduced Santa Paula City Councilmembers Mary Ann Krause – who had been the chair of the River Valley Ad Hoc Committee studying hospital issues – Dr. Gabino Aguirre and Rick Cook.Long also introduced Fillmore City Council and Piru Neighborhood Council members as well as county staff including Michael Powers, the VCMC Director and SPH personnel.“It’s just wonderful, it was just a labor of love for me,” said Long.SPH Chief Operating Officer Michael Borelli thanked Rea and the SCVWF for their support and noted that the hospital has seen more than 5,000 patients and is implementing new clinic services.Brian Robertson, whose father Dr. Robert Robertson, was the first SPH Chief of Staff, was honored with a plaque presented by Rea featuring a portrait of his late father that will be displayed at the hospital.“This is a very special occasion for me personally,” said Robertson, who noted that he has many memories of his father’s devotion to SPH. “…he was a very persistent and strong-willed person; Santa Paula Memorial Hospital kept him going and the Santa Clara River Valley going. There are families here tonight who were originally behind the hospital…keep it strong, keep it going.”Jane Lax and Gabie Reeves presented Richard Gomez, Vice Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, with a lithograph of the Murals of Santa Paula work decorating the wall at Blanchard Community Library that depicts the history and culture of area Chumash, the river valley’s earliest residents.Gomez later stood up for the purchase of four ICU beds on behalf of the Santa Ynez Chumash Band of Indians.Bill Tarter, Regional Vice President of Operations for Vons, and Rea announced the Breast Cancer Initiative Funding gifted to the SCVWF for screening.The Silent Auction, which featured dozens of gifts, and the 10-specially selected item Live Auction capped the evening, followed by dancing to House Arrest.

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