Hospital District Votes to Temporarily Close TRMC

Kevin Northcraft speaks to the public at an October 25, 2017 board meeting. Tony Maldonado/Valley Voice

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The Tulare Local Healthcare District’s board voted Wednesday night to temporarily suspend operations at Tulare Regional Medical Center, but the suspension won’t be immediate.

Members of the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s Board of Directors, and attorneys representing the district, stated before a closed session vote that the hospital could be forced to voluntarily shut down after the hospital’s current management company has threatened to unilaterally shut the hospital’s doors.

Those threats come after a bankruptcy court ruled Wednesday morning that the hospital could reject its contract with Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) as soon as it found another alternative, or on November 27 — whichever comes first.

“HCCA indicated that they would likely be closing down the hospital. They stated that on October 29, they’re going to be issuing a WARN notice, suspending all employees,” Niki Cunningham, an attorney for the healthcare district, told the public..

If the company pulled out of the hospital, the state could shut down the hospital on an involuntary basis. Cunningham stated that the risk of that happening isn’t small.

“There is a concern that HCCA will walk off the premises after today’s ruling,” she continued, “because they know that the end is near. So there’s a lack of incentive on HCCA’s part, to stay in place.”

By voluntarily suspending operations, the hospital wouldn’t be subject to requirements as stringent as an involuntary shutdown. It could also reopen more quickly.

The alternative — a state-mandated shutdown — wouldn’t be tenable, Cunningham said.

If the state were to shut down the hospital, it would face stiff fines and need to re-open “at code,” necessitating improvements to the hospital’s buildings and structures.

“Even if the state approved [Community] today, we don’t have access to all the financial records, we don’t have simple things like passwords to the computer systems,” Cunningham said. “There are some real practical considerations that are going into this discussion.”

The closure might not affect the district’s other properties, such as its clinics and the Evolutions gym, but neither board members nor attorneys could give an exact idea of what would close and what would stay open.

An Accelerated Pace Is Still Slow

Richard Gianello, of Wipfli/HFS Consultants, said that his hope was that the hospital would be closed “thirty to sixty” days – but that didn’t sit well with the board.

Wipfli/HFS was hired by the board to assist in the transition from HCCA to a new operator. Currently, Community Medical Centers of Fresno has been tapped to be HCCA’s successor.

Kevin Northcraft, the board’s chairman, stated that his “best case” scenario was as soon as a week.

There was movement towards ensuring a quick transition, Gianello said.

“Community [Medical Centers] is working on an application and a potential contract with the district,” Gianello said.

The reaction from the standing-room-only crowd varied from supportive — of the board’s position — to combative, considering any temporary suspension would leave employees without pay, or jobs, for a period of time.

“We’re stuck — this is a hostage situation,” Xavier Avila, a board member, said.

“Do you let [Benzeevi] pull the trigger, or do you take action?” he asked the public. “This is the lesser of the two evils.”

HCCA’s attorney, Marshall Grossman, and CEO, Benny Benzeevi, didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for this article.

15 thoughts on “Hospital District Votes to Temporarily Close TRMC

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  1. You got rid of HCCA now it’s closing……

    I thought you said the hospital would never close like you did during measure I!!!!!!!!

    Your the board that was suppose to come in and rescue us and now your talking bad about the staff.

    So many contradictions you guys are comedy.

    • HCCA is probably going to fire everyone. Why would they continue to do what the board wants them too? Goodbye WARN, not an option anymore. The HCCA contract states they can terminate employees anytime.

      • HCCA cannot fire or layoff that quantity of employees without following WARN requirements -it is a requirement. They have the ability as most employers do to fire individual employees at will but the volume in this instance is what triggers WARN.

  2. Board Please please inform employees what to do regarding health insurence will we receive cobra? Please keep us informed.
    In this very stressful situation thank you

    • It is really not the Board’s responsibility to notify of COBRA as TRMC is not your employer. This responsibility belongs solely to HCCA. Time for the employees to start asking Human Resources a lot of questions. Remember to ask about your unused vacation time. It is owed to you.

      • And therein lays the problem, the HR department rarely answers calls and most employees are greeted with a recording ,when leaving a message calls are rarely returned along with any emails. This information would be easily obtained in most facilities but not HCCA . HR depts first interest is the company not the employee. Employees have been lied to and misdirected by the HR department many times , I will assume that is why board loyal is concerned . Employees are undoubtedly going face road blocks with this HR department I doubt HCCA is going to step up and help the employees it blames. I know that trmc is not their employer however I would hope this board would consider the stress this is going to place on the employees (many who have never been in this position )and shed some light on the process they need to follow. They have been loyal employees and deserve some assistance.

  3. Please watch the video of the meeting. You will see that given HCCA’ s refusal to participate, the only and best option was to voluntarily suspend the license to implement a plan avoid HCCA threatened closure

  4. Closeitdown, you must not have gone to board meeting. HCCA after the court hearing this am filed a warn to layoff employees and close hospital. The hospital isn’t closing only suspending beds, which makes it very easy to open back up. If it closed like Dept of Public Health wanted to do, most likely would not re open because has to be up date on all codes(earthquake proof etc). Don’t blame current board, blame greedy past board members and HCCA. They also deed evolutions and property next to evolutions as a delay tactic.The old board is the one eho agreed to fire all employees and let HCCA hire them.

    • A less reactionary and sensationalistic view of the WARN notice is that since HCCA was told today they have to be done by 11/27 they would obviously not continue to be the employer of 525 hospital employees with out having a hospital to place them in. They are required by the state to issue a WARN notice if they are going to layoff that many employees. The board members and their scaremongering introduced the idea that HCCA was just going to walk out Dr. Benzeevi never said that and in fact his public comment was that HCCA would do what is best for the hospital and the community. So now the board has voted to close the hospital without any actual evidence that HCCA was doing anything other than taking the legal stances they should have taken in the face of the judges’ order today. So once again ruling from spite and fear they take the worst steps while cloaking themselves in their false armor of righteousness. Yet another manufactured crisis. pitiful.

      • It doesn’t matter what Benzeevi’s public comments were! He is a liar. He told us for 3 years that hospital was in good financial shape while he wasn’t paying the electric bill.
        The Board and it’s attorneys are doing the best they can. Today is only the first step to clean up the catastrophe left by Benzeevi, Kumar, Ostrom, Germany, Wilbourn, Torrez…

      • Please note should business continue as usual and the transition to leadership, the hospital will not suspend operations. If Benzeevi walks out next week, moves patients out and lays off employees, then the Board will move forward with their decision as it is the most logical and helps open the hospital doors much faster. No one in that meeting put down any employees but sang their praises. The Board is committed to keeping the hospital, Evolutions and the clinics running so that employees have jobs which means the community continues to receive the great care from the staff that they have come to appreciate.

  5. Thank you Dr. Entabi for expressing not only your concerns for the hospital, but the staff as well. Temporary suspension does not sound like a good idea, be creative, think outside the box.., have a plan and execute it! Dr. Betre, thank you for also showing concern, but put your money where your mouth is and challenge your fellow Drs to come back stop referring patients out and restore what’s has been damaged. This has been a pissing match since day one.

    • my observation…..it’s Kumar….His Power…..His Money……
      Look at this in context with Southern Inyo Hospital and you come out with some serious charges.
      You can’t just use money between hospitals like HCCA did, blame board members who never got but a 2-3 vote, trying to clean it up.
      Thinking outside the box is what got us into this mess in the first place….favorite words that Kumar would speak.
      Wasn’t a pissing match…..it was a patient care issue and peer review of Kumar….Someone, please refer to the court documents of the MEC case.

  6. Watched the whole thing – scaremongering huh? That’s exactly what Benny Boy did. Backdated his warning and closing Sunday. Think he isn’t vindictive and cares about the employees and citizens now?

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