Monday, April 26, 2010 2:42 PM

Herwaldt family helps Clovis Community expand its reach

Community Medical Centers is pushing ahead with major expansion plans for its Clovis hospital, despite tough economic times that have put some hospitals at risk of going out of business. The sour economy has led to perhaps the biggest need for donor-investors in Community’s 113-year history, and a familiar family is helping to answer the need.

Lou and JoAnn Herwaldt gave a gift in March to support Clovis Community Medical Center’s expansion into the first full-service hospital in the region with all private beds. Lou Herwaldt, who’s been nationally recognized for the success of his automobile dealerships, has been active in Valley health care since he first volunteered for Community’s board of trustees in 1984 and later became board chair in 1991.

He was part of a board vision that acquired property for Clovis Community’s current location, tucked in a lush orange grove on the corner of Herndon and Temperance avenues.

 “Being a board member for 13 years, it’s one of the things that we really wanted to do well – have a hospital system in Fresno and Clovis that will provide first-class medical service to this community so we didn’t have to run to Los Angeles or San Francisco to have our needs met,” Herwaldt said. “And now Community Medical Centers is a big asset to this whole community. Without it, I don’t know how this community would survive. It’s a privilege to be a part of it as well as a responsibility.”

Clovis Community’s four-year, $285 million expansion was launched in February with the demolition of the former administration building. A new five-story, 122,235-square-foot bed tower will be constructed, nearly doubling the hospital’s capacity to 205 private rooms.

The expansion will also add a 38-bed emergency department projected to serve 50,000 patients annually, a dedicated women’s pavilion, a special care nursery, 11 high-tech surgical suites and a multi-level parking structure.

 Clovis Community’s service area is projected to see a population increase of 15,000 within the next five years and a 43% increase in overall growth in the next 20 years. Area residents ages 45 to 64 and 65-plus are predicted to have the most aggressive growth rates, translating into the need for more hospital beds in the area, Clovis Community CEO Craig Castro said.

“With the very needs this community has and the success the hospital’s having, we certainly need to expand to provide the services that are needed,” Herwaldt said.

“I can’t think of a better place to invest money, that would pay the dividends that Community pays. So many people have been helped by this place over the years, that you can’t even count them.”

And patients won’t be the only ones getting help with this expansion project – it’s also expected to boost the local economy by supplying work for 4,000 construction people over four years.

“It could be the single largest job-creation project in Fresno County over the next several years,” Castro said, noting that once expansion is completed, it’s likely to generate surrounding development to support a growing work force.

The expansion also will ultimately create nearly 600 new hospital jobs with an average salary of $86,000 per year.

Clovis Community will remain fully operational during construction, and has added free valet parking for patient convenience.

Herwaldt’s Clovis expansion gift is the most recent of many Community projects he’s invested in. As a donor-investor since 1987, Herwaldt has also contributed to California Cancer Center, burn and Level 1 trauma services and the cardiac catheter lab. Last year, a street on the 58-acre Community Regional Medical Center campus was renamed Herwaldt Drive in his honor. Herwaldt served as board chairman for six years.

Community Medical Foundation officials hope Herwaldt’s gift and others, including a recent gift from longtime supporter OfficeMax, bring increased awareness to the expansion need at Clovis Community. Private gifts are being sought for the project.

For more information on the project, or to find out how to help, call Community Medical Foundation at (559) 459-2670.

Eddie Hughes reported this story. He can be reached at