Adventist gets new lease on life with Measure H passage

Hands down, voters choose hospital management under Adventist Health

By Nancy Vigran, Reporter for the Sun-Gazette

TULARE – While election results have not been certified, Tulare’s November election voting resulted in an overwhelmingly positive response to having its hospital open. Just over 88 percent of voters chose to see the hospital’s doors, which had recently reopened under the management of Adventist Health, remain that way.

Measure H allows for the Tulare Local Healthcare District (TLHCD) to lease out the hospital to Adventist Health for up to 30 years, with no additional cost to taxpayers.

“We are incredibly happy that the vote was such a positive affirmation of all the hard work that this team and community poured into reopening the hospital,” said Randy Dodd, president of the Tulare hospital. “We are eager now to recruit additional physicians and team members and expand services.”

“We are basking in the warm feeling,” said Kevin Northcraft, chairman of the TLHCD board.

Northcraft, other board members, and other community members, have been working night and day for more than two years to help Tulare retain a viable hospital, following the outrage of Tulareans over the hospital’s management under Healthcare Conglomerate Associates. The hospital was forced to close in October 2017 and the former management firm, HCCA, was ousted in November of that year. Bankruptcy and lawsuits came to the forefront.

For one year, patients had to travel to Visalia, Porterville, or Hanford for their emergency healthcare needs and hospitalization care.

However, with a few different healthcare entities looking to lease the hospital and reopen it, and after much consideration, Adventist Health was chosen by the TLHCD board. The hospital held a temporary opening on Oct. 15 under Adventist Health’s management, with the contingency to remain open only through voter approval of Measure H the following month. It can now stay open.

“The hospital was once the dividing factor and now it’s the unifier,” Northcraft said of what the hospital represents to the Tulare community. “The mayor said it perfectly – Tulare has its mojo back,” Northcraft added, paraphrasing comments made by Tulare Mayor David Macedo during the reopening ceremonies in October.

From the date of opening until voters passed the measure, the hospital had served more than 1,500 patients in the emergency department, according to Adventist Health officials.

“We are so grateful for the public’s overwhelming support of Measure H because that means we can move ahead with solidifying plans to roll out additional services,” Dodd said. “Much of what will happen is contingent upon our ability to recruit additional physicians and nurses, and that will take some time yet to determine. Since opening on October 15, we have provided emergency services including surgery and ICU, plus those services required to support them, including lab, medical imaging, pharmacy and more.”

It is now up to TLHCD and Adventist Health to finalize the lease agreement and to secure a permanent license to continue to operate the hospital as Adventist Health Tulare. Other services, such as obstetrics, pediatrics, a neonatal intensive care unit, and a cardiac catheterization lab, will open as staffing is completed. Registered nurses, vocational nurses, clinical technicians, registered dieticians, data entry specialists, food service specialists, and more are encouraged to view the Adventist Health job board for Tulare, and apply.

While the day-to-day management of the hospital will no longer remain in TLHCD’s hands, there is still a lot to do. The district owns and manages several other buildings including the Evolutions Fitness and Wellness facility, which it continues to manage.

The district is caught up in the lawsuit filed by HCCA, and has filed a countersuit. And, it has to settle its bankruptcy proceedings, and develop a payoff plan with its creditors.

While within the lease, Adventist Health will be making numerous improvements to the hospital, there is still the tower expansion completion to address which must be done within 10 years, Northcraft said, but the hope is to have it done in five.

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