Tulare is once again a united community.
With the future of the city’s only hospital hanging in the balance, voters overwhelmingly approved a 30-year lease of Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) to Adventist Health, as proposed in Measure H. The final tally was an 88.1% approval.
That landslide victory, says Tulare Local Health Care District (TLHCD) Chair Kevin Northcraft, signals an end of some of the division plaguing Tulare.
“At one point the hospital divided the community,” he said. “With 88 percent, it’s uniting our community.”
Measure H Milestone
Northcraft is proud of the city’s voters and his mood is hopeful.
“A lot of communities couldn’t have done what we able to do,” he said. “The future looks very bright.”
The people of Tulare, he says, has helped TLHCD’s directors accomplished their major goal.
“The primary mission was to get a quality hospital open, and we’ve done that,” said Northcraft.
The long-term agreement with Adventist comes just more than a year after TLHCD was forced to close TRMC as result of its legal battles with former management company Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) and the financial woes created by the struggle to regain control of TLHCD’s assets. The district eventually entered bankruptcy and was able to free itself from its association with HCCA.
Lack of immediate care in her city was the reason Tulare resident Lisa Crandell cast her vote for Measure H.
“I felt it was important because the hospital was closed for so long,” she said of her yes vote.
Still, she didn’t enter her approval without doing her homework first.
“I felt it was a necessity to really read through the measure, find out the information and what it was about, and vote for it,” Crandell said.
Others weren’t sure how they would vote.
“I’m not sure to be honest,” said Tulare resident Bianca Harris, who said she was unfamiliar with the circumstances leading to the vote on Measure H. “I just don’t know.”
Time to Recover
While Crandell voted yes on Measure H, it wasn’t without a bit of hesitation. She has concerns about the 30-year term of the agreement and she fears the district may be giving Adventist a break on future rent.
“They say it won’t cost the taxpayers anything, however, you don’t know what property values are going to do,” she said. “It seems to me property values will go up, so rents will go up, why would they be locked in a 30-year lease?”
Northcraft said a lengthy lease was necessary to protect Adventist’s investment in TRMC.
“We knew we needed to spend a lot of money to get us open and lose a lot of money up front,” he said. “To get a quality, modern hospital, they were going to have to make major investments. You can’t do that if you don’t have the time to recoup.”
Adventist, Northcraft estimates, will spend some $2 million on TRMC before they begin see a move into the black on their balance sheet.
“They’re a nonprofit, but they’re not in it to lose money,” Northcraft said. “Everyone we talked to needed a long-term lease.”
The dour mood once associated with TRMC is dissipating, and many of the ugly rumors have been laid to rest now that the hospital is once again in operation.
“Everything I’ve been hearing is positive,” said TLHCD Director Steve Harrell. “I haven’t heard anything negative in the last month. There were some folks confused that it was going cost the taxpayers money.”
While the “primary mission” of reopening TRMC is complete, there are still issues the TLHCD Board must address.
“We’ve got some more challenges,” said Northcraft, specifically citing budgetary issues during the next two years, as well as legal concerns. “We’ve got to resolve the litigation with HCCA.”
A public forum to discuss the future of the District will be held at 6:30pm November 14 in the Tulare City Council Chambers, 491 N. M Street.