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Tuesday, August 2, 2022 9:00 AM

Community Health System is expanding to keep pace with regional growth 

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Working at Community

Perhaps you’ve been a patient at one of our hospitals, driven by our facilities or noticed our name on billboards and buses.

Community Health System has become a household name in this region — but you may be surprised to learn we’ve actually been growing alongside you for 125 years.
 

A humble start  

In 1897, a group of Fresno physicians formed a private hospital by joining forces with Celia Burnett, the owner of an already successful boarding house, to open a private hospital. That hospital was relocated in 1905 to Fresno and S streets — the current location of Community Regional Medical Center. 
 bulldozer doing construction outside of Community Regional Medical Center
Over the years, we’ve expanded our hospitals, staff and services. Today, we’re a growing, thriving health system made up of four acute-care hospitals — Community Regional, Clovis Community Medical Center, Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital, and Community Behavioral Health Center — as well as several long-term care, outpatient and other healthcare facilities. 
 
We’ve also expanded our network of affiliated doctors and practices with Community Health Partners, a new medical foundation recruiting hard-to-fill specialties to the Valley, a region that's historically had some of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios in California. And we’ve introduced Community Care Health, a health insurance plan for local businesses, that’s become the third-largest HMO in Fresno, Madera and Kings counties with more than 11,000 members.
 
In 2021, we formalized our evolution into an integrated health system with a new name — Community Health System. “We believe when hospitals, health plans and physicians work together, the result is a stronger, truly integrated healthcare delivery system to better serve our patients,” said Craig Castro, president and CEO of Community Health System.
 

Keeping pace with area growth at Clovis Community

The Central San Joaquin Valley’s population is projected to grow 15% in the next 15 years and we anticipate our facilities will be busier than ever. At the Clovis hospital alone, the number of patients admitted to the hospital has risen 67% and ER visits have increased by 90% in the past decade. 
 
That’s made new construction at the 42-acre Clovis Community campus a priority, with new medical offices, additional parking for patients and expanded service areas.
 
In May 2022, the first patients were moved to Clovis Community’s new five-story bed tower, as part of a $430 million four-year, phased expansion to increase total hospital capacity by 41% to 352 all-private rooms. 
 
When completed by the end of 2022, the Clovis Community expansion will add 15,000 additional square-feet of emergency department space, six more operating rooms, enhanced radiology and lab services, and expanded seating and food options for patients and visitors. It will also include a new Heart & Lung Institute.
 
“The Clovis Community expansion is part of a decade-long strategy to meet the Valley’s growing need for different kinds of inpatient and outpatient care settings — all of which must work together seamlessly,” said Craig Wagoner, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Community Health System.
 

Growth is happening in downtown Fresno too

As our 685-bed flagship hospital, Community Regional in downtown Fresno is the state leader in Medi-Cal discharges and ER visits. It’s also home to the only Level I Trauma Center and comprehensive burn center between Sacramento and Los Angeles, and serves as the area’s “safety net” provider. This means we care for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2021 alone, we provided $231 million in uncompensated services and programs.
 
With a donation made in 2022, we’re upgrading nine pediatric patient rooms, creating a new nutrition space and upgrading a playroom to give our pediatric patients a more comfortable, kid-friendly environment.

The donation will also help us secure a second CT machine for the emergency department (and build the necessary space to house it). On average, 75% of the patients who need a CT come from the emergency department. This new machine addresses a critical need, increasing access to a vital diagnostic tool that will help us provide better service to our patients.
 

Expanding to offer care beyond our walls

Of course, not all patient care happens at our hospitals. We have affiliated practices and urgent care centers throughout the region and a mobile app, MyHealthMate, where patients can access their health information and navigate our online health system and services. This includes telehealth options, which have quickly become one of the regular ways Community’s affiliated physicians care for patients.
 
“People are actually, truly able to give good care over a computer or an iPad,” said Dr. Thomas Utecht, Community’s Chief Medical Officer. He added that quality of care always depends on the doctor, the patient’s ability to describe issues, and the device they’re connecting over. “But if you’re a person that’s not very mobile, or elderly, or have other health problems, being at home is probably safer than having to get on a bus or getting a taxi and coming to the doctor.”
 
Dr. Jeffrey Thomas, V.P. of Medical and Quality for Community Regional Medical Center, predicted, “Access to care through telemedicine is going to leave a lasting effect.” 
 
We’ll be caring for this community — now and in the future
 
As the leading healthcare provider in the Central San Joaquin Valley, Community cares for more people in the region than any other. Plans are already in the works to help us continue to meet the healthcare needs of this diverse and fast-growing region.
 
Castro praised the progress that has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: “Despite tremendous, ongoing challenges, our team never lost sight of our mission to deliver efficient, high-quality care, achieve clinical quality milestones and grow and strengthen our health system.”