Tulare County VA clinic location coming in August

Tulare likely out of VA clinic running, but VA to announce clinic location somewhere in Tulare County in August

TULARE – Veterans Affairs will be announcing its Tulare County clinic location sometime in August, but Tulare won’t likely be the landing spot despite city and the Tulare Local Hospital District’s efforts.

The news was broken at the latest hospital district board meeting, where CEO Sandra Ormonde announced that neither the hospital district nor the city of Tulare had submitted a proposal by the VA’s July 16 deadline.

“From my conversation with [The VA] this morning, they have proposals that look very good, that we’re pretty complete packages,” Ormonde said. “So that’s the good news, an expanded facility in Tulare County.”

Submitted proposals are still under wraps, but Ormonde said the VA expects to be awarding the contract in early August, when the site will be made public. While proposals from private owners were allowed, it is unlikely that any proposals from Tulare were submitted, as none came from the city or the hospital districts, the two public entities working with the VA to find a suitable location.

The VA had been accepting proposals for a 20,000- to 25,000-square foot building to renovate into a health care clinic. The VA had made it clear that new builds were not an option.

Lessons learned

The hospital district had a roller coaster of a time trying to get a proposal out to the VA to bring more veteran care to Tulare. Just when the board was thought to have collectively decided against offering up a portion of Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center—a hard-fought win by Tulare residents during the hospital district’s bankruptcy and the COVID-19 shutdowns—the hospital district called a special meeting July 14, just two days before the VA’s deadline to discuss offering up part of Evolutions to house the VA clinic.

The move took many by surprise, including Evo Management Company, LLC stakeholder Paul Atlas and Evolutions executive director Jayne Presnell.

“It seems like everything that involves us has always been a surprise. I think part of the confusion is that nobody really knows what you’re talking about,” Presnell said at the July 14 special meeting. “I’ve heard everything on the first floor will be the VA clinic. Does that include our locker rooms? The pools? Group rooms? What does that include? Nobody knows. The rumors are rampant, I had staff in and out of my office today asking, ‘what’s going on? Should we look for other jobs? Are they taking away Evolutions?’ I didn’t have any answers.”

The board caught flack at the special meeting about a lack of transparency surrounding the Evolutions gym, an experience board member Xavier Avila said from his point of view, the hospital district can learn from.

“We were a little hasty in not explaining it better,” Avila said. “How the VA could have been expanded and still have a good gym.”

Avila said he believes a deal could have been made to fit the VA clinic in at Evolutions and expand the gym rather than see it diminished, albeit there would have been downtime due to construction. He said while the VA clinic could have been a win-win situation to expand health care in Tulare while not stepping on Adventist Health’s toes, he was hesitant because unity in Tulare is more important to the district’s primary goal.

“We need the community support to finish the tower,” Avila said of the 15-plus-year project. “It’s going to take some really good communication.”

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