Big money has started flowing into the Tulare election to recall Dr. Parmod Kumar, as Kumar and his major recall opponent, Senovia Gutierrez, have recently held outreach events for the citizens of Area 3, the area eligible to vote in the recall election.
The election, to be held July 11, is now less than a month away. Both sides of the recall have been stepping up their efforts to promote their side of the story.
Residents for a Responsible Hospital
Recently filed records show that HCCA, the management company which runs Tulare Regional Medical Center, recently donated $10,000 to Residents for a Responsible Hospital, a committee operating to save Dr. Parmod Kumar from an upcoming recall election.
The committee, which supports Kumar, has been active on Facebook — not only in promoting Kumar and rebutting claims by Gutierrez, but also calling out major critics of the hospital’s management strategy, including Deanne Martin-Soares, a former Tulare Local Healthcare District board member, and Kevin Northcraft, a current board member.
A recent video posted by the group claims Martin-Soares, Dr. Prem Kamboj, and Bill Postlewaite lost the community’s $85m in original bond money through alleged mismanagement, and stated that since 2014, the hospital has been returning to profitability.
The hospital entered into a management agreement with Healthcare Conglomerate Associates in 2014; the three have been major critics of the company’s management of the hospital. The group’s website also takes shots at Kevin Northcraft, stating he has a “history of questionable decisions” and candidate Gutierrez, claiming she has “no plan on how to make the hospital progress.”
The committee has even gone as far as registering hospitalaccountability.net, perhaps hoping to catch anyone who might have meant to go to hospitalaccountability.com, the website for Citizens for Hospital Accountability, the opposing committee which supports Gutierrez.
While the form reporting the donation does not show HCCA’s usual address at Tulare Regional Medical Center — or the Los Angeles address filed with the California Secretary of State — officials with HCCA confirmed that the donation was a donation from the company, and not a mistaken filing or other error.
Additionally, Kumar himself has donated $10,000 to the same committee through his Gupta-Kumar Medical Practice in Tulare.
Recall = Really Complicated
Papers filed by the committee — whose main slogan has been “Recall = Relapse” — indicate an interesting contradiction: papers originally filed May 1 state the name of the committee as “Residents for a Responsible Hospital, A Committee Opposing the Recall of Kumar, and Supporting Candidate Salcido 2017.”
The committee’s original statement of organization forms state that the group both opposes the recall of Kumar and supports Jesse Salcido, a candidate in the recall election.
That designation was subsequently removed on May 17, when the committee filed new forms removing any support for Salcido.
There are no other differences between the two sets of forms: both have the same “principal officer,” Luther Khachigian of Visalia, and the same street address.
Khachigian previously donated substantial amounts to the Yes on Measure I committee.
Both also share the same treasurer: Lysa Ray, of Lysa Ray Campaign Services. The firm, based in Santa Ana, advertises a simple solution to handle fundraising, mailing, and filing obligations.
“The purpose of the committee is as stated in the last-filed/amended 410 form,” a group representative told the Voice.
Candidate Jesse Salcido
For Salcido’s part, he says he’s not aware of the committee’s purpose — and he wasn’t behind it.
But the candidate, who’s been heavy on meeting people in his district face-to-face, talked to the Voice about his purpose for running and his views on the hospital’s operations.
Salcido, a father of four, describes himself as a retired mechanic and simple family man. He wants to donate his time to the community he calls home.
“I’m an average Joe that cares about his town,” he said. “When you wake up and you’re proud of where you live and work — there’s nothing greater than that.”
He wants to get the politics out of the hospital’s operations and bring it back to a simple, personal feel — “old fashioned, in a modern way” — where patients are able to have friendly doctors who patients can feel comfortable with.
One of his main goals would be to push for the construction of an urgent care center near the hospital, that would allow patients with life-threatening conditions — such as heart attacks or strokes — to be seen more quickly, while those with less threatening conditions would be within walking distance to an urgent care clinic to prevent long ER wait times.
“My goals for the hospital include [seeing] the tower completed and an urgent care facility constructed, which will cut wait times for all our residents,” Salcido wrote on his campaign Facebook page.
Salcido also said that he wants to see the hospital keep its current management, stating that ideas to partner or outsource its management to other companies would end up with the hospital’s current staff forced out. But that doesn’t mean he wants to keep the status quo completely.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “If the hospital was ready to close down — and now it’s open — then there’s got to be some credibility [to the current management.]”
He encourages anyone interested to reach out to him on his Facebook page at fb.me/JesseSalcidoTLHCD3., stating that he’s always open to new ideas. He also states that an upcoming event is in the works — and to stay tuned to his Facebook page.
Senovia Gutierrez, supported by the Citizens for Hospital Accountability group, has been the major public face of the campaign to recall Kumar.
Gutierrez states that she has been a resident of Area 3 for 23 years; originally coming to the United States from Mexico at the age of 24. The youngest of 12 children, she was forced to quit school at the age of 16 and work to help her family.
After coming to the United States, Gutierrez enrolled in the Tulare Adult School at age 37 to begin the pursuit of a college education. She eventually graduated from Fresno State, obtaining a master’s degree in Social Work and becoming a citizen.
“My issue is NOT with our hospital’s employees and the hardworking men and women at TRMC. I want to empower them and liberate them from all of the turmoil and negative perception that has clouded our hospital for, unfortunately, a very long time. We want leaders who lead, instead of blaming and criticizing their employees for their management failures,” Gutierrez wrote recently.
She states that she wants to restore transparency and accountability back to Tulare’s hospital — and according to Citizens for Hospital Accountability, the group endorsing her, that message has resonated.
“We have had outstanding support and feedback from Area 3 residents and our social media presence has grown substantially since the official campaign began. We have organized enthusiastic citizens from our community who have volunteered to walk door-to-door with fliers and campaign on the Prosperity Avenue/Highway 99 overpass,” Citizens for Hospital Accountability wrote in a statement to the Voice.
“We intend to go into high gear for the next month, especially going door-to-door and continuing to listen to the needs of Area 3 residents. It makes our task easier when Senovia Gutierrez is such an outstanding candidate to replace Parmod Kumar,” the statement continued.
“She is warmly greeted by Area 3 residents with hugs and an overwhelming show of support. Senovia typifies all that is good about Tulare and that which makes our community so special to all of us.”
Residents wishing to find out more about Gutierrez’ campaign or support her can visit her Facebook page at fb.me/YesOnSenovia.
The last day to register to vote in the election is June 26.