I think it’s time for some “facts checks” regarding a letter to the editor (Visalia Times Delta) from the TRMC board member Linda Wilbourn dated July 20, 2016. I would like to address primarily the third paragraph of her letter.
Mrs. Wilbourn states “…the likelihood of the hospital closing is real.” Is that her opinion as a board member or as a property owner? Over the last month and a half, I have heard the hospital is closing, or the hospital could close, or the hospital may close the and the latest version is directly from Dr. Benzeevi himself during a tower tour on Saturday, July 16th, when he commented, “when I say closing I don’t mean boarding up the doors and windows, I mean we will have to make changes.” Depending on who’s talking, be it the board, HCCA, employees, a Southern California PR firm or just those who support Measure I, they all have a different take on what’s going to happen if the bond fails. In fact, it was Fact Dr. Benzeevi who most likely said it best “…I mean we will have to make changes.” -he said nothing about a permanent closing.
The Second fact check is, how many employees receive a pay check from the Tulare Local Health Care District or HCCA? Mrs. Wilbourn states “…500-plus employees at Tulare Regional Medical Center…” Going back to “who’s talking” as cited above I’ve heard 100, 200, 250, 500 and now 500+. For now, let’s go with the 500+. How many of them are traveling doctors, and nurses who do not live in Tulare County? How many employees live outside the Health Care District? According to Wikipedia TRMC/HCCA doesn’t even make the top ten for number of employees within Tulare. Looking at Tulare Chamber’s top five employers health care services, hospitals, doctors, dentist, and so on rate number four. California Employment Development Dept. (EDD) lists the TRMC in the number four spot and they didn’t include Wal-Mart, Southern California Edison, Saputo Cheese, US Cold Storage, the City of Tulare or the school districts. What is the true answer?
Fact check number three is “…our community is in big trouble. Homes will be sold, schools will not be receiving dollars…” and “…legal, accounting, plumbing, electrical, beauty shops, etc., won’t be needed and neither will groceries, tires, appliances, vehicles and clothes…” According to Dr. Benzeevi during our tour of the tower, “ K-Mart closing as well as American Medical Response ambulance (AMR) leaving, will have an economic impact on the city”. AMR, isn’t even in Tulare. If “the sky is falling” as they would try to lead us to believe, it appears the only way to save ourselves and the city is to drink the cool-aid and vote yes on the bond. Isn’t this what we heard in the past if we didn’t get the “NASCAR track”- and Tulare is still thriving? If the intended point of Mrs. Wilbourn’s letter is a negative economic impact as a result of the bond failure then you must remove from the equation all of those employees who don’t have homes or rent in Tulare or are not within the health care district and would have no need of plumbing, electrical, appliances and those businesses they would normally patronize if they had homes or rented here. The “500-plus employees” quoted by Mrs. Wilbourn is probably closer to 120 employees who actually live within the hospital district. The CEO of HCCA, Dr. Benzeevi, who by the way lives in Visalia does he buy tires, groceries, clothes, get legal advice or buy a new car in Tulare? The answer is probably not and no. Would a traveling ER Doctor who lives in Southern California hire a plumbing business in Tulare to fix his broken water pipe? No. Would a nurse who lives in Kingsburg drive to Tulare to buy groceries? No, but he or she may shop on his or her way home. Even those who live out of the area probably do contribute some to our economic stability- just not to the degree that Mrs. Wilbourn would have us to believe. The point is Mervyn’s, Albertsons, Save-Mart, Radio Shack and others all have closed and we haven’t rolled up the streets of Tulare and we won’t if the bond fails. It’s not all gloom and doom as she mistakenly tries to put forth, and the sky will not fall if the bond fails.
Stephen C. Harrell