It was standing room on Dec. 6 as the Colusa County Chamber of Commerce, along with the community, officially welcomed the opening of the long-awaited Colusa Medical Center.
While cutting the red ribbon was largely ceremonial, the future bodes well for American Specialty Healthcare Inc. if turnout and enthusiasm are any indicators of the future.
The hospital had only been open for two days prior to last week’s celebration, but the state-of-the art emergency room and inpatient hospital care facility were already operating in full swing, with more services expected to be added soon, said Chief Executive Officer Gia Smith.
“Our staff is awesome and working diligently giving quality care to the patients that have been admitted,” Smith said. “We are very happy to be here. We see the need in the community. In just a few days, our ER has been super busy, and we are happy to bring back new technology.”
Few were as excited to see a return of a medical facility than Supervisor John Loudon, who, like the rest on the Board of Supervisors, was blindsided by the sudden closure of Colusa Regional Medical Center 18 months ago, after keeping silent about being millions of dollars in debt.
A medical facility, in one form or another, had been open at that Colusa location for more than 100 years, officials said.
In addition to providing services to residents of the community and travelers through Colusa County, the hospital provided emergency services to the county jail, performed DUI tests for law enforcement, and employed 200 people, making it the biggest employer in Loudon’s supervisorial district, and one of the biggest employers in the county.
“This has been a long time coming, and they sure have good doctors on staff here,” Loudon said. “It’s beyond words.”
Loudon, who is the county liaison to Colusa Medical Center, said that he, Smith, and American Specialty Inc. are confident the resources will be available to make the new hospital successful.
The new CT scan, updated telepathology, and other healthcare communication systems are also online and in full operation, Smith said.
“Everything is computerized,” she added.
Members of the Colusa Medical Center Auxiliary are also back in business, providing assistance to the staff whenever and wherever it’s needed, and operating the Auxiliary gift shop, which raises money for the Auxiliary said President Shiela Etchepare.
“Our mission and goals are the same as it was in our original charter of the 1950s or 60s,” Etchepare said. “And that is to generate money to give back to the community.”
The gift shop, which had relocated downtown to a temporary home provided by Frank Rogers, is back in business with a large inventory of quality merchandise for the Christmas season.
While the Auxiliary can no longer provide contributions and donations to the new hospital as it has in the past, the Auxiliary is looking forward to reorganizing and focusing its efforts on community service.
“We want to be a big presence at the hospital,” said Etchepare, “That is how our little auxiliary started. There was no gift shop. It was providing services.”
More than 100 people attended the Chamber mixer last week, including 89-year-old Ollie Reckers, of Maxwell, who was thrilled the hospital was open.
“I think it’s great,” Reckers said. “I haven’t had to use the hospital, but I’m sure I will. I’m glad it’s open, finally. It’s wonderful, and I’m glad the community is behind it.”
Smith said Assemblyman James Gallagher and his team worked with American Specialty Inc. all through the process, getting them over the mountain of bureaucratic hurdles.
“Their office played an integral part in helping the hospital get opened,” Smith said. “They, more than anyone, need to be thanked.” ■