Tulare Regional Medical Center officials offered a chance for local media to see the latest construction on the Tower One building early this week.
Healthcare Conglomerate Associates CEO Benny Benzeevi led the tour and spoke about each room, with construction, marketing, and public relations officials from the hospital in tow. The viewing, hosted on July 12, was open to media outlets from around the valley. Reporters from the Voice, the Visalia Times-Delta, and KTIP were present. TV networks and other publications were shown around later in the day.
Benzeevi used the tour to show the progress that HCCA, the company contracted to run and manage Tulare and the Tulare Local Healthcare District, the legal public entity that owns TRMC, have made on the tower building since HCCA began operating the hospital, and decried arguments made by some opponents of the upcoming Measure I bond proposition.
“All along, it was publicly known in every single document we ever found, including the official GO Bond documents, that we would need additional funds to complete this project,” Benzeevi said. “So, to me, this whole rigamarole that occurred in the past that, why did 85 million not finish the building, is baffling.”
“Was the $85 million spent wisely? I’m not in a position to say yes or no,” Benzeevi said. “In my opinion, I have my own personal opinion, but we have a building. Did we get $85m or $80m worth? We got a building. Now we’ve just got to finish it.”
He also spoke about other district hospitals which have closed or been purchased out by HCCA’s competitors and left without emergency services.
“Corcoran disappeared, Taft disappeared, Colusa Regional Medical Center disappeared,” Benzeevi said. “Adventist bought Colusa, shuttered the hosptial, shuttered the ER, drove off with the clinics. Adventist bought Corcoran — where’s the ER in Corcoran today?”
Fittingly, one of the highlights of the tour was the area which would, in the completed building, form an upgraded emergency department, with what HCCA bills as having four times the bed capacity, with two “screen rooms,” 20 “exam rooms,” four “major treatment rooms,” and “lightning speed service.”
Benzeevi also presented the vision that he has for HCCA’s Tulare Regional Medical Center, an “integrated healthcare system” that would have partnerships with other institutions that would allow TRMC to focus on immediate-need issues.
“We need to build an integrated healthcare system. We want to be the best with what is needed with our community and also have associations with large tertiary care university medical centers for the stuff they do well” Benzeevi said, “We’ll never compete against UCLA for brain surgery. There’s no point in even trying.”
Benzeevi said that patients are, depending on the condition, patients are sent out to various hospitals throughout the state, including Stanford, UCLA, UCSF, and UC Davis, and he said that HCCA is seeking to establish agreements with such hospitals that would give its patients “priority” among similarly-afflicted patients.
“Visalia offers nothing different than Tulare does. The actual essence of the care is exactly the same,” Benzeevi said, referring to a possible situation in which emergency crews would be faced with a choice of taking a patient to Tulare or Visalia. “We’re planning to get a trauma designation as well and really all that is, is more of an internal thing. The fact is, as far as services are concerned, we provide essentially the same services — certainly for trauma — as any of our area hospitals, even today.”
Benzeevi, throughout the tour, stressed importance of Measure I as being integral to the future of the hospital. A document distributed to the assembled media also called claims that the hospital would close without the passage of another bond “fiction,” stating that such claims are “not scare tactics, it is the reality.”
“I don’t want an entire community to suffer for generations because of the misdeeds of a few,” Benzeevi said. “It would seem a real karmic injustice.”
“Regardless of what happened before, we have to stay focused on getting the job done. Because if we don’t get the job done, it’s all done.”