Tulare hospital opens its doors to patients after being closed for a year
By Lewis Griswold
October 15, 2018 03:29 PM
Tulare Regional Medical Center re-opened Monday under new management a year after closing its doors.
The reopening of the 112-bed hospital in Tulare means local patients no longer have to go north to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia.
It also means Tulare residents have taken control of their public hospital, said Kevin Northcraft, chairman of the Tulare Local Health Care District.
“Six months ago we were in the depths of despair,” he said. “Everyone was saying what we wanted to accomplish, what we are accomplishing this morning, couldn’t be done.”
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But the hospital did what experts told board members had never been done before, he said: the hospital closed its doors, suspended its license to operate, declared bankruptcy and still re-opened.
“This victory ending up being a community that had to rise up by its own bootstraps, through thousands of volunteer hours and hundreds of prayers to get us to today,” Northcraft said.
The previous management company, Health Care Conglomerate Associates, was booted out a year ago by the new Tulare Local Health Care District board of directors in response to a community uproar about the amount of money – $235,000 a month or more – being paid to the company and other concerns.
Adventist Health new manager
The hospital now is managed by Adventist Health, a nonprofit organization in Roseville that also operates in the central San Joaquin Valley at hospitals in Reedley, Selma and Hanford.
Adventist has hired 160 people, many of them former Tulare hospital employees.
“We are committed to the community for a very, very long time,” said Andrea Kofl, president of Adventist Central Valley Network, which oversees the hospitals in the San Joaquin Valley.
A sign of success occurred unexpectedly when a board member announced midway though the opening ceremony that the emergency room had just received its first patient.
Northcraft, a retired Tulare city manager, said the effort to take control of the hospital started with a group of five to 10 people and grew from there. Eventually, five board members, including Northcraft, were elected to the board, replacing a board that had lost the confidence of the community.
Work to do
Despite reopening Monday as scheduled, there are a number of unresolved issues. For instance, the lease agreement between the hospital and Adventist must be approved by voters on Nov. 6. It’s on the ballot as Measure H.
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And bankruptcy proceedings are still going on. A plan to repay creditors will be worked out next year, officials said Monday.
The unfinished hospital tower project, built using an $85 million bond until money ran out, may require going to voters to ask for more funding, although that remains undecided.
But Monday was a day of celebration.
The opening of the hospital will let the city “get its mojo back,” said Mayor David Macedo. “It’s been said no matter what side you were on in the last few years, it’s time to come together, help this community grow, get back on its feet, and do the great things it was meant to do.”
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