“There is a chance to save our hospital through Measure I”

After 22-plus years in health-care administration, I retired and was asked to come work for HCCA to assist in building an integrated health-care system that would provide quality care and seamless access to healthcare for all. I have been here for well over a year and have had the pleasure of meeting remarkable individuals both within the community and those that I work with.

With that said, I am dismayed over the rhetoric over the last few months regarding Measure I. There has been finger-pointing, name-calling and accusations that I don’t believe is a true reflection of the character of Tulareans.

There is no doubt that health-care administration is complex and ever-changing, but what hasn’t changed in this landscape is that every community should have access to care in the neighborhood in which they live. Recently, many communities have not been lucky in that regard:

Colusa Regional Medical Center was closed on April 22, 2016, and the community was described as being “blindsided” (Fox 40 News, April 1) in news reports. Other stories described the closure as a “disaster for the community” (KCRA, April 2); with “anger and frustration in the community” (Appeal-Democrat, April 12); as well as the inevitable decision “Adventist takes the clinics and Hospital is shuttered” (Appeal-Democrat, April 20).

Saddleback Memorial Hospital closed May 31, 2016 and the community sprang into action. “Hundreds rally to save hospital from closure” (CBS-LA, Dec. 20, 2015), and “Community pleading its case to Orange County Board of Supervisors (Orange County Register, May 9, 2016), but the result was unchanged with “194 layoffs” (Physciannetwork.com).

Folks, these communities did not have an opportunity for a bond measure, but they absolutely understood the impact of the closures.

In Tulare, there is a chance to save our hospital through Measure I. There is overwhelming support for the bond in the community – and the reasons are clear. Tulare needs a hospital with an emergency room. It needs a hospital to treat our children, our parents, our grandparents. The city’s economy benefits from the 500+ jobs that the hospital provides.

Primary care and specialty physician recruitment and retention should be an imperative for Tulare County, not just for The Tulare Local Health Care District. The Central Valley is well below the national average for physicians per capita and the aging of our local physicians is apparent. More than 30% of physicians are over age 60 in California and in Tulare alone we surpass that, according to the California Health Care Foundation (2014). We collectively must look beyond the tower to understand future impacts without a hospital. Newly graduated physicians will not look to re-locate in Tulare if they do not believe the community values healthcare.

I live in a community that closed the county hospital 18 years ago and, although promises were made that there was capacity to absorb all the patients, it has not come to pass.

Emergency departments in the remaining hospitals are on diversion several times a year and that compromises patient care.

I implore this community to put aside their personal biases and work together to assure Tulare Regional Medical Center continues to provide local care to local residents who deserve the very best. Rarely do we have such a clear cut choice as we have now.

Simply stated, voting YES on Measure I means voting YES on continuing to have a hospital in Tulare. Please vote YES on Measure I.

Samantha Phillips-Bland

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