MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Madera County leaders are navigating next steps after the Madera Community Hospital closure took effect midnight.
As of Friday, afternoon there were only 15 patients left in the hospital with plans in place to either discharge them or transfer them to nearby hospitals or skilled nursing facilities.
In the meantime, public health officials are urging Madera County residents to have a plan if facing a medical emergency.
Emergency Services Medical Director Dan Lynch says now is the time to plan for residents of Madera County.
Anyone with a medical emergency is encouraged to dial 911, but should be prepared to be taken to Fresno or Merced.
"With Madera Community closing and the condition our hospitals are already in, we're in a really dangerous and peculiar situation," he said.
While the impact of the closure has yet to be felt, the healthcare system is preparing for the worst, increasing the number of ambulances and notifying nearby hospitals. Many of those hospitals already at or near capacity. Lynch says for the first time in 20 years, for four hours Wednesday night, Regional Medical Center was put on diversion-- sending patients elsewhere.
"They were at a critical situation where they couldn't take anymore patients, and it was becoming unsafe," Lynch added.
When it comes to non-emergencies, Camarena Health is extending urgent care hours at its Madera office.
"There are large clinics in Madera that could take care of some of those folks, but if they need hospitalization, we don't know if they're going to show up at Saint Agnes, Kaiser or community hospitals," said Lynch.
Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue issued a local state of emergency calling for State and Federal resources -- one of several avenues discussed at Thursday night's emergency Board of Supervisors meeting.
Commander Jason Clark says, "with the lack of ambulances that are going to be in our county, they're going to be transporting patients to Fresno. Then that's going to put an impact on our patrol service or deputies. We do have medical clearances that the deputies will have to do at a time. So, when you don't have an emergency service or hospital, to take them to locally, you have to take them to Fresno. So they're going to be out of service that much longer."
In addition to reviewing hospital financial, Madera County Public Health director Sarah Bosse says they're researching the possibility of developing a healthcare district similar to Tulare and Watsonville to serve Madera County.
This, as well as short-term solutions, will go before the board next week.
She says they're "also working with state partners, and others to identify both short-term funding that might be able to save some sort of services or stand back up some services such as emergency room services. Staff has also been directed to look at the ARPA funds that were allocated to the county."
For Madera County residents, know where your nearest hospital is.
Non emergencies, try to find an urgent care or get tele-health appointment as E-R's in Fresno are already packed.
For a link to urgent cares in Madera County, click here.