Fresno County supervisors declare state of emergency over bed capacity at hospitals

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Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Fresno County supervisors declare state of emergency over bed capacity at hospitals
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has declared a state of emergency due to the lack of beds at local hospitals.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has declared a local state of emergency.

Officials say local hospitals have no beds and they're concerned about the likely impact to come because of the recent closure of Madera Community Hospital.

"We're in dire straits, like patients are suffering." Community Regional Medical Center's Emergency Room Chief Dr. Danielle Campagne told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

She said the hospital has been overcrowded as cases of Covid, the flu and RSV surged in recent weeks.

Now, they're anticipating the impacts from the closure of Madera Community Hospital.

"I just feel like there are constant shortages and constant challenges and Madera, I feel, is going to be the tipping point for us." Dr. Campagne said.

Last week CRMC went on diversion for a few hours, sending patients elsewhere.

EMTs and paramedics were instructed to use the "assess and refer" policy.

They are now referring patients to urgent care or their own doctors if they don't meet certain criteria to go to the hospital.

County staff and the County Department of Public Health recommended the board not approve the declaration yet.

They say that's because numbers at local hospitals stabilized over the weekend, and the state recently agreed to consider providing more resources.

Steve Brandau argued this has been an ongoing issue and not one that a state of emergency was going to fix.

"It's like this big ongoing problem that's inside of our health care system, and to declare an emergency, I have some heartburn with that." Brandau said.

Nathan Magsig agreed the problem was bigger than just the current overflow of patients.

But Brian Pacheco said it was important to trust the information from the hospital, that they need help now.

"You are absolutely right, it is an ongoing problem, but when you have 30 people in a hallway. That's an emergency." Pacheco said.

The board ultimately voted unanimously to declare a local state of emergency.

In a statement, the county said in part, "The Board also adopted this resolution to spotlight the need for assistance from the state and federal government."

The local state of emergency has been declared for the next four weeks.

At the February 7th meeting, supervisors will take a look at how hospitals are doing and decide whether to rescind the emergency or extend it.

What was once a bustling hospital in Madera is now left lifeless with no signs on the building.

On Tuesday, Madera County Board of Supervisors ratified the local emergency proclamation, a formal request for assistance from the state.

The request for assistance will now be sent to the Governor Gavin Newsom.

Also on Tuesday, signs were placed on the door at Madera Community Hospital, saying that all patients will be transferred on January 3rd.

RELATED: Madera County residents desperate for alternatives as hospital closes

Supervisor Rob Poythress serves on the Madera Community Hospital Board.

He says before the pandemic, the hospital was marginally profitable. Once COVID-19 hit, nurses retired.

So, the hospital had to hire traveling nurses, who sometimes made more than the doctors.

"We traded a $70 an hour salary for a $220 an hour salary and that's really what the killer was right there. Plus, the low reimbursement rates," explained Poythress.

Poythress says more than 60% of the patients were on Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid healthcare program. The hospital had some of the lowest reimbursement rates in the state.

Stay with Action News for updates on this developing story.