April 2, 2024
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A century of Central Coast health


Despite vaccines, a drop in infectious rates and cities shifting from protective health measures to preventative approaches, 2021 resumes the two-year trend of health care as a focal issue in the U.S., as cities direct what they hope to be the COVID’s third and final act. With hospitals and clinics already in their communities’ spotlight, the Business Times 2021 Legacy edition recognizes three tri-county care facilities for celebrating major milestones and continue to provide critical services to their region.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in Santa Barbara, Sansum Clinic is the Central Coast’s oldest and largest outpatient health care provider, with more than 1,000 employees and around $350 million in total revenue.

Dr. William David Sansum, who helped start Sansum Clinic in 1921. (courtesy photo)

The Sansum Clinic of today led by CEO and chief medical officer Dr. Kurt Ransohoff was originally founded as two separate clinics. Dr. William David Sansum, who was the first doctor in the U.S. to use insulin to treat patients with diabetes, a disease that was widely regarded as a death sentence at the time.

He founded Sansum Medical Clinic in 1921. That same year, The Santa Barbara Medical Clinic was created by a group of innovative health care leaders with a multispecialty health care approach, similar to the model of the Mayo Clinic. During their 100 years as Santa Barbara health care providers, both clinics battled through several historical turning points, including the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake, the Great Depression, World War II, the dawn of Medicare and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

However, adversity sparked innovation, and after the two clinics merged into a single outpatient institution in 1998, Sansum Clinic is now the largest private independent non-profit outpatient healthcare organization between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, with 180 physicians and more than 30 specialties. It serves more than 129,000 patients, with 800,000 patient visits yearly at 22 patient care facilities.

“We will always be proud of and committed to our important mission: partnering with our community to deliver healthcare during any challenge, whether that be during wartime, economic recessions or this current pandemic,” said Ransohoff.

Nearly 25 years later and 50 miles Northwest from where Sansum planted South Coast roots, a piece of legislature enacted by the state which gave districts authorization to build and operate health care facilities in underserved areas in the region. In 1946, Lompoc Valley Medical Center was established, expanding health care services to the rural parts of Santa Barbara County.

Another hospital celebrating its 75th anniversary is French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, which operates under the Dignity Health Central Coast hospital network. Despite its long tenure in the region, the hospital’s operations needed resuscitating. The hospital’s current chief executive, Alan Iftiniuk, took over his CEO role in 2004 to try and turnaround the struggling health care facility.

“I walked into dilapidated buildings with outdated medical equipment that hadn’t been properly managed or maintained,” Iftiniuk said in 2019 when talking about first signing on with French.

Iftiniuk said he was surprised the hospital didn’t close down, and it probably would have, if not for some of the hospital’s medical staff partnering with Central Coast developers to purchase the real estate in order to save the facility’s history.

Today, French is frequently named among the nation’s top performing hospitals, and just completed state-of-the-art emergency center, thanks to a $5.5 million donation from Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer in March 2017.

Also celebrating a major milestone in 2021 is Clinicas Del Camino Real, an affordable health care service with 15 health centers throughout Ventura County, with more than 100,000 patients. Clinicas is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021.

French Hospital in San Luis Obispo at its original site in 1932. (courtesy photo)