Tulare Regional Medical Center will temporarily suspend its operations on October 29, including all operations at its clinics and outpatient facilities. Staff from the California Department of Public Health are on hand to ensure safe patient transfers.
The move comes after Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, the hospital’s management company, told its employees they would be suspended Sunday, according to a letter provided to employees.
The company’s CEO told the Voice that this situation could have been avoided.
“HCCA was prepared to continue with the management of the hospital and provide financing alternatives to the board which would have kept the hospital open,” Dr. Benny Benzeevi, HCCA CEO, said in a statement.
“Instead, blinded by their hate and personal agendas these individuals hastily and without any plan, filed for this unnecessary bankruptcy for the sole reason of trying to remove HCCA,” he continued. “Unfortunately, their imprudent actions informed by personal vendettas and hate may end up costing the taxpayers of Tulare millions of dollars and may result in the closure of their hospital.”
Stuck With Nothing
A bankruptcy court ruled that the hospital was free to exit its contract with HCCA as soon as an alternative management company was approved by the California Department of Public Health to take over operations of the hospital — a process that could take days or weeks. If it didn’t find one, it would have to wait until November 27 to exit the contract.
No other company has filed to take over management of the hospital yet, according to a statement from the California Department of Public Health on Thursday evening.
That means, for now, the hospital’s still managed by HCCA — and subject to the company’s timeline, even if it’s not operating.
Additionally, as of Thursday evening, the company hasn’t filed a closure plan with the state.
“HealthCare Conglomerate Associates, the company contracted to manage Tulare Regional Medical Center, has indicated an intent to close by midnight 10/28, though CDPH has not yet received a closure plan,” a statement read.
The company’s employees — the vast majority of employees at the hospital work for HCCA — were provided with notices stating that the company would “temporarily suspend its operations at the Tulare Regional Medical Center […] on or about 12am on October 29, 2017.”
The letter, dated October 25, doesn’t mention the late-night vote by the Tulare Local Healthcare District’s board of directors to temporarily suspend operations of the hospital, and it is unclear whether the notices were printed before or after the board’s vote.
“It is ironic that the very people who rejected the proposed bond offering and instigated the recalls and who promised that they will do a better job, are now faced with the imminent closure of the hospital,” Benzeevi said.
The board’s advisors had previously stated that the company was planning to issue notices suspending the employees.
“They indicated that on October 29, they’re going to be issuing a WARN notice, suspending all employees,” Niki Cunningham, a lawyer representing the board, told the public last night.
“That is going to, in essence, result in a lack of staffing for the hospital, which is going to prompt the state to come in and intervene,” she said.
Kevin Northcraft, chairman of the district’s board, stated that he had been made aware of the notices sent out by HCCA, and that the district was in discussions with the state.
“[Dr. Benny Benzeevi, HCCA’s CEO] is saying he wants to do what’s right for the community, but how is that doing what’s right for the community?” Northcraft said.
“We’re in discussions today with the state – both the state and us are worried about the reactions by HCCA,” he said.
Evolutions, the gym which the district owns and HCCA operates, would also be included in HCCA’s unilateral suspension.
“We can’t understand Evolutions closing. Evolutions raises it own money. That appears to be purely vindictive,” he said.
The letter from HCCA states the move is necessary due to “faltering financial conditions.”
“HCCA is faced with faltering financial conditions and is forced to temporarily suspend all its operations at TRMC until additional funding or other arrangements can be secured,” the letter reads. “HCCA remains hopeful that it will be able to reach an alternative resolution with the District.”
“The permanent termination of HCCA’s operations at TRMC will affect a total of 524 employees. We expect that if this occurs, your separation of employment will occur on or about November 27, 2017.”
“We apologize for any inconvenience this event may cause and we thank you for your hard work and dedication,” the letter, signed by Dr. Benny Benzeevi, HCCA CEO, states.
Benzeevi told the Voice that while the board succeeded in removing HCCA, it came “at a terrible cost of potentially hundreds of jobs lost.”