Coming to Tulare in 1936, I must say the Measure I hospital bond campaign has to be one of the most divisive issues I have witnessed in my community. For unknown reasons, some residents have become pitted against each other and friendships have been lost at precisely the moment when we should be banding together. In the past, I could proudly tell out-of-town friends that our community was tight-knit, responsibly generous, and made sure all Tulareans had access to facilities for their betterment. Tulareans have repeatedly answered the call to support roads, schools, the library, and our first hospital bond, which I, along with many civic-minded folks, supported because we believed in the necessity of a strong community hospital. I also participated in the planning of the original hospital and the seismic retrofitting finished in the 1980’s and served as a Trustee of the Tulare Hospital Foundation for many years.
Unfortunately, supporting Measure I feels a little like believing in Santa Claus right now. We are asked to believe on faith and not based upon facts. We are told not to ask legitimate questions of “authority” such as our publicly-elected Board or of the management which is paid an exorbitant $250,000 per month, or over $3 million per year. We are to blindly trust. There remain so many unanswered questions: Where did all the money go from the first bond? Why was a forensic audit suspended in 2013, at the hands of the majority of the current board? Where is an itemization of how much this new bond will cost to complete the tower? Who will be the construction manager(s)? No one seems to know. Who is HCCA and their principals? There are many more questions, but all the answers are withheld and brushed aside with comments such as, “we don’t want to get into that right now”. HCCA wants to hide behind being a privately-held company when it is convenient, and likewise, ask the public for funding for our publicly-owned hospital when it proves advantageous for them. You can’t have it both ways, yet their arrogance tells them that they can.
They are the ones egging on employees that they are somehow “soldiers”, like this is a battle or war to be waged. This is utterly ridiculous. They are using scare tactics and taking advantage of dedicated, yet frightened, employees, many nearing retirement age, who may have never known another employer. This is terribly wrong. Tulareans, take note. These Southern California unknowns want us to squabble amongst ourselves so as to divert attention from their plan to own our public hospital.
This is why we citizens of Tulare have to rise up and take back our hospital. It has absolutely nothing to do with hate or war, it has to do with right and wrong. When I was Mayor of Tulare in the 1950’s, our town faced a problem with organized crime and along with it, prostitution and gambling. Amazingly, some people tell me to this day that I ruined Tulare. Of course, what was right then is still right today. So, for that reason, we must learn from our history. We must right this wrong as well. Tulare and its citizens will not let this hospital close. That is HCCA’s and the Board’s Chicken Little, “The Sky is Falling”, story, and I am not buying it. If you read the HCCA-TRMC contract as I have done, you will find that HCCA has positioned itself to buy our hospital, and debt-free through passage of this bond. I will not go into detail because Mr. Postlewaite, Mrs. Hillman, Mr. Mederos, Mr. Soares, Mr. Beck and Mr. Aguilar have already eloquently presented these facts in this publication. HCCA is a privately-held business so the real fault lies with our publicly-elected Board of Directors who approved this contract. It is a total shame and it saddens me greatly that we have gotten to this point, but if we can stand together with unity, we can right this wrong too. I am confident my fellow Tulareans will stand with me to save our PUBLIC hospital. Join me in voting NO on Measure I.
Dr. Tom Drilling