While most trees are turning brown and losing their leaves, the trees in Tulare are getting greener this December. The Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) Foundation, and friends, are busy tying green ribbons around trees and just about anything else that will stand still with signs of hope for the medical center.”
Green represents healing and restoration,” said Jan Smith, executive director of the TRMC Foundation.
“I can think of no two better words,” to represent the feelings of the Foundation and Tulare with regard to its hospital, than the motto to accompanying the ribbons: “Tulare Strong.”
TRMC suspended operations on October 29 following a long-term embattlement between the management company of the medical center entities and the TRMC board. Through a court order, the management company’s contract has been rejected. The hospital has temporarily, and voluntarily, closed its doors, and the board is working toward reopening them as soon as possible.
It the meantime, members of the Foundation board and staff have a renewed optimism for the hospital.
“The energy level is up,” said Brian Kallio, one of the nine members who serve on the Foundation board of trustees. “I came on when we were putting all the focus on getting the tower completed.”
But, there were distractions.
“It [hospital management] was a money pit,” he said. “Now, there is a new set of eyes and a positive direction,” he said. “We’re looking forward to reopening and finishing the tower.”
The Foundation has no say in management of the hospital. It is a separate non-profit entity which raises funds for needs within the district – most often equipment for the hospital and for Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center, owned by TRMC. One of the largest donations the Foundation has made was a bone-density scanner in 2016, at the approximate cost of $40,000.
While the hospital is closed, the Foundation continues working, although for this year, it cancelled its annual winter fundraiser, Festival of Trees.
“It was a tough decision,” Smith said, “but it was decided not to have a party, just to have a party.”
The Foundation leant its offices to the newly acting TRMC administration until it actually received the keys to the hospital and facilities.
Meanwhile, the Foundation is showing the community that it continues to stand behind its hospital. Following Thanksgiving, staff, board members and friends were busy wrapping trees in green bows.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Smith said, “we’ve turned the corner. We’ve been experiencing this [turmoil] for the last two years. The last three months have been really intense – really tough. It’s divided the community and friendships were challenged.
“It’s not going to be easy to get it [the hospital] open. We definitely have the right leadership to get it done, and the hospital board and Foundation board get along great.”
The closure of the hospital has in turn been a loss for many other local businesses as well as the city, Kallio pointed out.
Other healthcare entities, such as rehab facilities and in-home healthcare providers and more have suffered. Kallio himself manages a local rehab facility and sees the loss on a daily basis.
Kaweah Delta Healthcare District (KDHCD) has taken on the bulk of the load for TRMC. They, the KDHCD management and staff, have been very supportive of TRMC and the community, Kallio and Smith agree.
Rene Miller, a Friend of the Foundation member and Tulare city employee in the finance department, was lending a hand in the green ribbon effort. While she isn’t a Tulare resident, as a city employee she sees the importance of the hospital.
“The community needs the hospital which keeps money in the community,” she said. “There are only a couple other businesses [in town] that employee as many as the hospital.”
The 500-plus employees of the hospital were actually hired through the former management company, and have been laid off.
The hospital is currently working with those staff members to rehire under TRMC itself, when it should reopen its doors.
However, most are currently without work, or paychecks.
As such, the Foundation is also working on a toy drive to benefit the children of laid-off hospital employees. The drive lasts through December 18, and the Foundation is looking to collect some 500 new and unwrapped toys for children up to 12 years of age.
Toys may be dropped off at the Foundation office, 906 N. Cherry St. or at Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center, 1425 E. Prosperity Avenue.