Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) is back in business.
On October 26 of last year the Tulare Local Health Care District (TLHCD) Board stunned the community with the announcement the city’s only hospital would voluntarily give up its license and close its doors.
At 9:15am on October 15–just two weeks shy of the anniversary of the closing, while a ribbon-cutting ceremony was taking place at TRMC’s entrance–an ambulance pulled up to TRMC’s emergency room.
“First patient just came into the ER!” said TLHCD Director Xavier Avila, who was addressing the celebrants at the time.
The crowd erupted in cheers.
The reopening of TRMC, says TLHCD Board President Kevin Northcraft, represents a herculean effort on the part of the TLHCD and its new management partner, Adventist Health.
“We’re completing a miracle this morning, getting a closed hospital, a bankrupt hospital, reopened to serve our great community,” he said. “It was almost a year’s effort with a lot of frustration and a lot of despair, and in the last six months it’s all come together.”
Northcraft was describing the myriad regulatory and technical hurdles the District and Adventist had to overcome in order to get Tulare’s only medical center, as well as the district’s various clinics, back to work in an extremely short time.
“We picked a partner, Adventist Health, we thought would work, but they’ve exceeded every expectation,” Northcraft said. “The things they put together, physically, the building, the staff, the training. Their expertise was just phenomenal, and their commitment. They probably had 50 people full-time over here for the last month.”
Randy Dodd, lead executive at TRMC for Adventist, says the TRMC campus and facilities are “outstanding.” Adventist has rehired many of the original staff members, and the Medical Executive Committee has been reinstated.
“The work we’ve put into it certainly has paid off. I think what we’ve accomplished here has been remarkable,” he said. “Getting this hospital ready to reopen today has just been an amazing ride. It’s ready.”
Besides doing the work necessary to get TRMC reopened, Adventist has also footed the bill, lending the district $10 million to keep it solvent. Getting TRMC completely back on its feet–currently only the emergency department is in operation–will at first be a money-losing proposition for the company.
“They lent us money and they’re going to lose money very significantly for the few months of restarting the hospital,” said Northcraft. “But, they are committed to the long-haul.”
Adventist hasn’t announced its long-term plans at TRMC. Dodd says that will likely happening in about three weeks, just after the vote on Measure H, which, if passed, will give voter approval to Adventist’s leasing and independently operating TRMC.
Despite the uncertainly the Measure H vote represents for TRMC’s future, the reopening of the hospital is a moral boost for Tulare at a time it needs one, said Interim City Manager Willard Epps.
“It means the world to the city. It’s a new beginning,” he said. “You know we’ve been going through some hard times, and this is one of the things that’s going to give us a kick-start and get us back on our feet.”