By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
TULARE – The name Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) has become synonymous with squander, scandal, secrecy, and bankruptcy. That’s not been the case since Adventist Health reopened the doors less than six months ago, when the non-profit hospital network began transitioning the Tulare hospital’s image from failure to savior. That transformation was completed last week when TRMC officially became part of Adventist Health and is now known as Adventist Health Tulare.
All material documents were filed or formalized on Friday, filed or formalized on Friday, March 15, 2019, to start the lease and change the license ownership to reflect Adventist Health. This means that Adventist Health transitions from managing the hospital for the Tulare Local Health Care District to leasing and operating it as an Adventist Health hospital. While the lease began on March 15, Adventist Health needed formal approval from California Department of Public Health to begin calling the hospital Adventist Health Tulare, which occurred on Friday, April 26. Randy Dodd, president of Adventist Health Tulare, said new signage is on the way and temporary signs should be up this week or next.
“We are very happy and very pleased with how hard the staff has worked to pull off this milestone in such a short period of time,” Dodd said.
The name change reflects the efforts of countless people, including Adventist Health employees, the Tulare Local Health Care District, Citizens for Accountability, a very dedicated Tulare team, plus Tulare voters, all pulling together to reopen the hospital, said Dodd.
“We are fortunate that we were selected to deliver the care that this community wanted and knew it needed, and we are preparing to introduce even more services in just our first year, with more to come,” he said. “We look forward to caring for Tulare residents for many years.”
Since reopening to the public on Oct. 15, 2018, the hospital has seen more than 13,000 patients in its Emergency Department and performed more than 140 surgeries in its surgical suites. In addition to the surgeries, more new services include wound care, home care and pulmonary function testing.
Before summer’s end, the Tulare team will resume birthing services in the Obstetrics wing and welcome the first baby born at Adventist Health Tulare.
The financial health of the hospital has also been restored. The hospital district used up $9.6 million of a $10 million line of credit Adventist extended in August 2018 trying to reopen the hospital. Most of that was offset when Adventist agreed to purchase the equipment, furniture, and incidentals at the hospital for $6.3 million. The remaining $3.3 million the district owes to Adventist will be offset by lease payments for use of the hospital.
“The district is the landlord and we are the tenant,” Dodd said. “We employ the people and own the equipment.”
The change is the fulfillment of the community’s steadfast mission to provide high-quality health care to Tulare’s residents, said Kevin Northcraft, president of the board of the hospital district.
“What a significant milestone in the Tulare community’s progress in restoring our local hospital,” he said. “The beginning of the Adventist Health lease is expected to restore quality, local, self-sustaining hospital facilities for our 70,000 residents – and their descendants and successors – for at least the next 30 years.”
He called Tulare “the rare community” of determined, civic-minded citizens who donated countless hours to right a wrong.
“God bless Adventist Health Tulare, our new hospital, and God bless our beloved greater Tulare community,” he said.
In all, the hospital now employs nearly 400 employees throughout the hospital and various support services. Tulare is one of the largest hospitals Adventist will operate in and around Tulare County. Tulare’s 112 beds is only second to Hanford’s 174 beds but Tulare will serve one of the smallest patient loads as the hospital continues its work to bring back services.
“We have a ways to go to grow Tulare back to its full capacity,” Dodd said.
This is the sixth hospital that Adventist has saved in the Valley. The most notable for Tulare County residents include Adventist’s purchase of Central Valley General Hospital in Hanford in 1998, Selma Community Hospital in 1999 and Sierra-Kings District Hospital in Reedley in 2012. The Reedley hospital was bankrupt and looking for help when Adventist stepped in and now it is a thriving health care center.
Further north, Adventist’s Central Valley Network took over and saved a 200-bed hospital in Lodi in 2015. In 2016 acquired the Tehachapi Health care Center near Bakersfield when it was struggling financially. Adventist opened a brand new facility in Tehachapi last fall. Adventist also completed its acquisition of Rideout Health in Marysville a couple of months ago, which included the 219-bed hospital Rideout Regional Medical Center.
The only question left to answer in Tulare is what will happen to the medical tower, whose never ending construction project serves as a pillar to the mistakes of the past. Dodd said the tower is still the future of the Tulare hospital which much relocate its operations there to meet the state of California’s new earthquake standards by 2030. Now that the hospital is operating and out of debt, Dodd said Adventist Health Tulare can begin building bridges to the community who will have to support additional funding to complete it.
“Restoring confidence within the community is the next major step,” Dodd said. “For the time being, the rest of the hospital is adequate for what we are doing.”
A blessing, dedication and celebratory luncheon for the team and supporters is planned for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 in the hospital parking lot.
-This article was updated at 11:25 a.m. PST on May 2, 2019.