Coalinga's hospital could reopen by later this year

COALINGA, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been more than ten months since Coalinga Regional Medical Center announced it would close its doors.

But thanks to the results of a recent special election, the hospital could reopen as soon as later this year.

Only 1,800 people hundred people voted.

But the results were overwhelming.

Measure R was approved by 93 percent of votes earlier this month, which could reopen Coalinga Regional Medical Center by later this year.

The hospital closed mid-last year due to financial problems, including the inability to cover the costs associated with inpatient care.

More than 200 people were laid off, 70 skilled nursing residents had to find new homes, and to this day, if you have a medical emergency in the Coalinga area-you'll have to drive to Hanford, Visalia, or Fresno.

The hospital filed for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy later last year.

"I think it's a miracle that we stayed viable as long as we did, but we reached a point where we could no longer operate," said Coalinga Regional Medical Center Board President Bill Lewis. "And what happens, of course, is as soon as the word gets out that you might be closing, the staff heads for the hills. They go elsewhere, and then it's just a death spiral."

But thanks to voters, there's new life for the hospital.

By passing Measure R, voters gave the hospital district permission to lease and potentially sell the hospital to a company called Coalinga Medical Center LLC, run by Dr. Gurpreet Singh of Modesto.

Lewis says Singh could eventually buy the hospital for $1 million.

But the lease and option to purchase agreement must first be approved by the bankruptcy court next month.

Lewis says Singh plans to bring back all the hospital's services, including the ED and skilled nursing facility.

"The idea is he wants to make this a good profit center so he can finance the emergency services and finance some of the things that don't pay so well," Lewis said.

If approved by the bankruptcy court, Singh will get the keys right away.
He'll have to get it staffed and inspected before the hospital's license is activated again.

But Lewis believes that could happen by later this year.

"It's been maintained, the grounds have been maintained and everything," Lewis said. "It's in such good shape that there's not a lot of renovation that has to be done."
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