Measure I Campaign Heats up Tulare

The campaigns surrounding Tulare Regional Medical Center’s Measure I show no sign of slowing down as the August mail-in election draws closer. Both sides of the campaign — Yes on Measure I, the group supporting the measure, and Citizens for Hospital Accountability, the group opposing it — have started campaigning and distributing lawn signs.

Both sides are also hitting the ground and the internet: Yes on Measure I recently opened a Tulare office at 205 North K. Street in Tulare, and both campaigns have advertised on Facebook, seeking to sway public opinion.

Organizing via social media site should prove fruitful for both camps: much of the discussion and organization against Visalia’s Measure H, floated to support Kaweah Delta Hospital, was done through a major Visalia Facebook group and a local No on H Facebook page.

The political machinations have created discussions of the hospital’s future, of the performance of the current Tulare Local Healthcare District (TLHCD) Board of Directors, and of the past $85m bond measure.

Debate Over Hospital’s Future and Stewardship

HealthCare Conglomerate Associates, the company that the TLHCD Board has contracted the hospital’s operations to, the Yes on I camp, and board members both draw a clear link between Measure I and the future of the hospital.

“If Measure I fails, the [tower] project will die and the hospital will be forced to close,” the Yes on I campaign stated in a recent Facebook post.

“This is for the entire population.. particularly on the west side, the poor people of our town, whose only hospital… There is no jet waiting for them, there’s no SUV with a driver taking them to another hospital, they have to come to our hospital,” TLHCD Board member Dr. Parmod Kumar said. “So for them, we need to keep the hospital there.”

Critics of the hospital and its board point to the recent Measure H failure as an example of a bond that failed without the hospital closing.

“Don’t be fooled by the Board and management who threaten us with scare tactics by saying the hospital will close—that’s ludicrous,” the Citizens for Hospital Accountability group states. “The Board and HCCA claim they are doing well, turning a profit and have money in the bank. So why are they not sharing the cost and burden for construction?”

Citizens for Hospital Accountability also takes issue with the hospital’s governance, citing the contracts the board entered into with HCCA as proof the TLHCD board has lost control and oversight of the hospital. Seeking to influence the future of the hospital past the Measure I election, the group has raised the possibility of backing candidates to replace Chairwoman Sherrie Bell and Laura Gadke, two members up for election.

Debate on Oversight

Dr. Benny Benzeevi, CEO of HCCA, proposed a multifaceted “bond oversight community” program for the upcoming bond so taxpayers can directly ensure compliance and completion of the tower project.

The Board of Directors endorsed the idea, originally eschewing the idea of a formal committee, before recently approving the addition of a traditional bond oversight committee.

The bond oversight community plan, as described by Benzeevi, would create public-facing websites for construction plans, work schedules, and money draw schedules. It would also appoint outside monitors to ensure that work is done efficiently, on-budget and on-schedule.

The Measure I resolution text, as signed and filed by the Board of Directors, does not legally bind HCCA or TLHCD to any oversight other than a yearly report, to be filed by hospital officials no later than five months after the end of each fiscal year.

“Has there been a cost analysis on the expenses of [Dr. Benzeevi’s proposed oversight] plan? A public website, a construction website, a financial oversight group who will be experts,” Michele Moore asked at the June 22 board meeting, “to look at monies only, and a leadership committee that would meet monthly. With all of this, where does the board’s duties fall?”

The bond oversight community idea would make the project more transparent than any other “in the history of Tulare County,” the Yes on I campaign states.

The recent “Tower of Shame” grand jury report found that the board was not fully cooperative with the last Bond Oversight Committee, which the current board denies, stating that it has been fully cooperative; board member Linda Wilbourn, who previously served on the oversight committee, had said that the bond oversight community plan was a “better way of doing it,” and would place an oversight responsibility with the whole community.

The grand jury also recommended disbanding the current Bond Oversight Committee, created to oversee the fully-expended $85m bond; in the board’s response, dated May 26, the board said it would vote to disband the committee in its next scheduled meeting. The item did not make the June 22 agenda.

Acts and Attitudes

Amidst the vigorous debate from both sides, the Yes on I office found itself in the spotlight shortly after its opening for a slightly less political reason: its office was vandalized over the 4th of July weekend.

Stuart Pfeifer, a contracted spokesman for both the Yes on I campaign and HCCA, told the Visalia Times-Delta that he believes the vandalism was a targeted act.

Both sides have also said they’ve had yard signs stolen: one person even posted security camera photos of the suspected thief from their security system in the Citizens for Hospital Accountability Facebook group.

At the last regular TLHCD meeting, both sides spoke about what they perceived as negativity during the campaign process.

“If someone makes a comment and then has to leave the area, I don’t think that you should talk badly about them, as you did at the last board meeting,” Moore said. “That just didn’t sit well with me.”

Dr. Kumar and Dr. Benzeevi both took time to respond to what they felt was negativity from those opposing Measure I.

“The majority, by far, the overwhelming majority of our citizens that live within the district, and even others, really understand and appreciate what is going on here,” Benzeevi said later in the meeting. “They don’t buy into the negativity of a handful of a few that have hate in their heart.”

Dr. Parmod Kumar spoke about the last conversation he had with Mark Watte, a recently deceased former Tulare City Councilmember, after Dr. Benzeevi presented a video Watte had participated in supporting HCCA and TRMC.

“Mark, these people come to the board meeting, they have such venom — they just viscerally tear us apart. I’m tired of it,” Kumar said, relating his conversation with Watte to the board and audience. “The board has worked hard. They talk about all the negativity in spite of this cinderella story, which they refuse to accept.”

“What is your advice? I’m getting discouraged. [These were his] last words [to me]: he said, Parmod, these naysayers are going to be naysayers,” Kumar said. “They are not going to come around. Stop pleasing them, ignore them when they speak, give them their time because this is a public meeting…but tell the employees of the hospital, and your Board, and Dr. Benzeevi, and the administration that Measure I will pass. It is important, we just have to go forward.”

“No matter how many presentations you do, how much data you present, they are not going to change their minds because they have hatred in their bones,” Kumar recounted Watte as saying.

The Yes on Measure I office is open from noon to 8pm during weekdays, and Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

The campaign is available online at www.tularemeasurei.com and its Facebook page is accessible at www.facebook.com/YesOnMeasureI.

Supporters seeking to volunteer or pick up yard signs are encouraged to make an in-person visit.

Citizens for Hospital Accountability is available online at www.hospitalaccountability.com and on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/jzdk6ng. Supporters seeking yard signs are encouraged to contact the campaign via Facebook.

To read the text of the bond measure, listen to past board meetings, and learn more about the issues surrounding the Measure I bond measure, visit the Valley Voice’s dedicated documents page.

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

18 thoughts on “Measure I Campaign Heats up Tulare

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  1. Quotes from someone (Dr. Kumar) who does not understand “the poor people of this town.” Just because someone is less fortunate does not mean they deserve the terrible quality of care practiced at Tulare hospital, or wait over 3 hours in an empty emergency room just so the nurses can talk about they’re weekend plans. If the people of Tulare are paying for more hospital measures, then they deserve to know where all the other money has gone and where all this new money will go. This hospital has been nothing but a burden to the people of this town since construction on the tower has started.
    This piece should be dedicated to the Opinion section and not the News.

  2. Wow! First your PR firm appears to drum up an alleged break-in attempt at your Measure I Headquarters to sway public opinion and now you play the emotional card of quoting a respected community member who recently passed away just to once more try and sway public opinion. What’s next? Shame on TRMC and HCCA!

  3. I can not believe the comments from the Board and HCCA about that TDH will close if the citizens of Tulare do not give them another 55 Million to complete the gift they gave of our TDH to a select few elitists for their own benefit.

    We already gave them 85 Million which we are paying for and now they want to bilk us out of 55 Million to benefit a for profit business.

    I grew up in West Tulare and am college educated and do not buy their BS. As to using the passing of Mark Watte for sympathy votes Is dispicaple. My family has been in Tulare for 80 years and have known the Watte Family since they came to Tulare.

    To say Tulare will wither and die without HCCA/TDH is another fallacy. Did Dinuba, Exeter, or Lindsay cease to exist when their hospitals closed. Did Visalia stop growing when KDDH aquired Visalia Community Hospital or Tulare when Tulare County Hospital closed. Compare the
    2016 census to when those
    facilities closed and all have grown in population. To say that the mortality rate will increase without a hospital in Tulare is another fallacy, Check with Fresno/Madera /Kings/Tulare Counties EMSA Authotity for the fscts. Also KDDH has a helipad and a Life Flight Helicopter can land in a lot of places when requested.

    I want for Tulare to have a first rate hospital that belongs to the citizens and not a select few for their own kingdom. My family has 6 no votes Messure I. We have choosen to have our medical care st KDDH. I can not in good faith and conscience give my business to a for profit corporation and a Board who plundered and bankrupted TDH

  4. If they don’t get the money, where will Dr. Benzeevi draw his 3 million dollar salary from? So sad, how will he survive?

  5. Wow… Just noticed something… If you go back to the article published June 14 about TRMC Grand Jury Response and you look at the replies and low and behold you have the same people shooting out their venom at the hospital. Barbara, Clark and Susan. I guess it’s true that some hearts will never be changed… Too bad. This is a great hospital with hard working and caring employees working in a building that is 50-60 years old who would want nothing more that to have state of the art equipment to help provide for the care of all the comunity…

    • Ryan you are correct about not changing my heart! That said….what you really should be concerned about is changing “my mind” and I have to say you are not doing a very good job with you using emotion instead of facts in your talking points.

  6. I sure hope you consider all the employees that will lose their jobs. I hope you consider the drive to a nearby hospital that is if they have the room and can accept an ambulance as time is ticking with your life in hand. All hospitals are over crowded so shut another one down. Its only the lives of the people in Tulare that you care so much about that are going to be a stake. Ever been to Fresno Community? 8 hour wait plus..ever had to wait for a couple hours with chest pain thinking you may be having a heart attack? Get ready..closing Tulare just decreases health care, regardless of the board.

  7. I do not think Dr. Kumar doldrums be talking about people having Venom. A lot of people have a reason to be Venom against him for his medical care. He knows first hand about that subject.

  8. So much corruption & lies. We have yet to hear what happened to the 85 Million..there is a lot of side stepping, etc..going on…I cannot give them another dime.

  9. The Hospital will not close, another large group could come in but the board won’t allow it, they made their bed and expect us to pay for it. Most employees are outsourced or nursing registry etc now. They could be placed somewhere else. Only upper management could lose out or follow their fearless leader where ever he goes.

  10. I don’t think measure I is about Dr Kumar or any other physician at Tulare hospital. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s about securing funds to complete the construction of a new hospital for Tulare Ca that meets earthquake requirements for the state of Calif. The older portion of the hospital, that has served this community for many years no longer meets those requirements and can no longer support in-patient care. That date is not that far down the road and it is going to be the state that shuts down the hospital in Tulare if the new one is not built before that date. If Tulare hospital should ever close, how important do you think that extra 20 or 30 minutes would be in saving the life of a drowning child, heart attack patient, stroke patient or any other family member in serious need of medical care that has to be taken to Visalia because there are no other options…

  11. Don’t buy in to the big lie. The hospital will not close, by HCCA own accounting they are on target to make 9 million profit after paying Benzoovi 3 milion. If their figures are accurate they can finance on their own like the PRIVATE hospital they really are.

  12. The employees are HCCA employees and HCCA runs the daily activities of the hospital but the hospital (building) belongs to the people of tulare and those who would tell you otherwise are the true decievers. I challenge every voter to go to the California Hospital Seismic Safety Law and see for themselves the burden California is putting on all their hospitals. The mother of all lies is that voting “NO” will save the hospital. Two of the most important things that make up a thriving community is quality education and quality healthcare. It’s not a bad idea to invest in either one…

    • The mother of all lies is that voting “No” is a vote against TRMC employees. Not so! Repeating that lie will not make it anything other than a PR talking point on behalf of TRMC Board of Directors and HCCA. There is still time to secure our hospital’s future and getting compliant with the State’s safety laws with the right people at the helm.

  13. Barbara you are absolutely correct. Wouldn’t a simple analyses tell you that if you are making unprecedented profits (as claimed by Benzoovi & board) $9 million for this year would that not pay for the “Tower” pretty fast? What am I missing here? Oh yea this private company wants to profit with taxpayer dollars!!!!!!

  14. The reason we are talking sbout bad care by that Dr.is because he has been on the board longer then anyone and is responsible for many people going to a good hospital KDDH.That is what we are talking about Ryan. Maybe you should talk to some of his ex patients. There are many.

  15. This is obviously an emotional subject, and understandably so. I have both friends and family in various positions at the hospital. This fact causes me to take extra time and consideration before I vote no on Measure I.
    I have avoided commenting on wheather or not to vote for Measure I. There is a ‘Fact vs Fiction’ flyer about the hospital that I received in the mail within the last few days. It is full of “half-facts”, just as this type of flyer should be. This flyer is full of “half-facts” and I feel the need to fill in some blanks.
    -It is indeed a fact that in 2013, the hospital was close “its end”. The flyer left out the facts that there were 3 other hospital chains / entities that presented proposals for TRMC to partner with them, Adventist Health, Community Medical Centers, and a smaller chain from Costa Mesa. I admit that I do work for Adventist Health. However, after reading the proposal synopsis that were provided in the news paper, I felt that the proposal from Community Medical Centers was the strongest, then Adventist Health, the smaller chain, then the offer from HCCA. The presence of the 3 other offers was left out of the flyer.
    -The next fact described how the hospital completed 26 consecutive months of profit. I am sure this is true and is a great accomplishment. However 2 Information Technology (a.k.a. computers) related companies walked away from TRMC due to non-payment. (I work in I.T., and had friend and acquaintences that worked in the TRMC IT dept).
    -The final half-fact mentioned Colusa Regional Medical Center closed in April 2016, and 200 people lost their jobs. This is true. However, this hospital chose to back out of a partnership deal with us shortly before it would have been finalized. This hospital had several clinics which we were able to purchase and keep open.
    -This half-fact also mentions that the hospitals in Corcoran, Lindsay, and Kingsburg all closed. The hospital in Kingsburg was about to join with Adventist Health when TRMC offered more money up front than Adventist offered. Kingsburg then backed out of the deal with Adventist in lieu of the better looking deal with TRMC. Once TRMC saw how much it would cost to bring the Kingsburg hospital up to code, TRMC backed out of the deal and left Kingsburg high and dry. Kingsburg soon closed. They forgot to mention that in the flyer.
    Before working for Adventist Health, I worked at Kaweah Delta. Between the two hospitals, I’ve worked in healthcare for 16 years. I have received great healthcare at both hospitals, and yes even at TRMC.
    If Measure I fails and the hospital does close its doors, I do not believe it will be permanent. The hospital has many things going for it that other, smaller hospitals that close did not. The hospitals mentioned in the “Fact vs Fiction” flyer were small, old, decrepid, neglected, and were in smaller towns than Tulare. Our hospital has a new building, with lots of potential. It is located in a good location with good clinics as well. It is a very viable hospital. While I am partial to Adventist Health, there are many other alternatives to the mess we have running our hospital now.
    Please, vote “No” on Measure I and let people that know how to run a hospital run our hospital.

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