Whether it is accounting principles, politics or personal disagreements, the Tulare Regional Medical Center management has long been in disarray. It has taken local residents, patients and staff on a long and bumpy ride that only seems to get more complicated.
With two factions vying for control, through elections, recalls and further elections, there are now two separate accountings of board meetings and special board meetings. One consists of two old-guard board members, backed by the hospital management team of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates. The other of three more newly-elected members, who represent a majority on the five-member board. Just who is actually in control is anyone’s guess – those on each side each claim to be.
If the issues are to be worked out in courts, it could take some time. One question is whether the hospital, with overdue bills and payroll checks not being honored, has that time. Another question is should another body step in to come to the hospital district, management team and board’s aid?
A Supervisor’s Position
Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel for District 2, which includes Tulare, likens it this way. While a congressman is the highest elected official in the county, Vander Poel would not want the congressman to intervene in management of the county. He is there to represent the constituents at the state or federal level.
“The hospital does not fall under my jurisdiction,” he said. “I am very focused on county business.”
Still, Vander Poel does want the hospital to succeed. There are three in hospitals within the county, he wants them all to succeed.
“If any one goes down,” he said, “it will cause a backlog for the other two.
“The county needs three hospitals, and, we [the Board of Supervisors] through whatever means possible, will do whatever we can, to help ensure that.”
What About Tulare City Council?
At the city level, Tulare Councilman Jose Sigala said, “From my point of view, the council should be involved.
“We have constituents who are patients there, and tax payers.”
At a previous council meeting, Sigala said he brought up the prospect of the city requesting a state audit of the hospital. It didn’t even receive a second and the proposition died, he said.
Sigala was an advocate for the recall of board member and physician, Parmod Kumar, which passed city voters by an 80% margin in July. The mayor, Carlton Jones, got involved against the recall, Sigala said.
Politics aside, recently some hospital board members have requested the use of council chambers to hold regular hospital board meetings. The chambers are made available through application and are utilized by various entities within the city including the chamber of commerce.
Mayor Jones has placed the situation on the current council agenda for discussion.
“Discussion of current City of Tulare policy, relating to use of City Council Chambers for purposes other than City business. Based upon the recommendation of the City Attorney and as a result of concerns relating to after-hours staffing and public safety, adopt amendment to policy that would limit usage for purposes other than City business or, in the alternative, adopt proposed amendment to policy that would prohibit use of Council Chambers for purposes other than City business.”
Sigala points out that this would not only affect the hospital board, but, in fairness, would have to affect others that utilize the chambers.
“I oppose that,” he said. “When council [or other city entities, such as the planning commission] are not utilizing it, as long as they follow the rules, they should be allowed.”
Sigala said he also feels that it is time for the council and perhaps the board of supervisors, to help out and finish the [hospital] tower.”
The tower stalled in a state of partial development when funds rans out. A $55 million bond measure toward finishing the tower, failed to pass with city voters last year.
Yet Another Viewpoint
Tulare’s city manager, Joe Carlini, said that from a city managers point of view, “I believe that the hospital is extremely important – it is major for me.”
But, “they have their own board, their own people,” he said, “I don’t know if they [city council members] would step in.”
He also doesn’t know if, as city manager, he should recommend that they do so.
Carlini said his next door neighbor was admitted to the hospital not long ago, after having chest pains.
“He was treated very well,” Carlini said.
As a city manager, he does not want people to prefer to go to Visalia for their medical needs.
“I want people to say they want to go to this hospital,” he said.
It is clear that no one wants Tulare Regional Medical Center to close. But just how it will remain open is still to be decided.
The Voice reached out to the Mayor and other Tulare council members for comment, but as of press time, no one else responded.