TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) -- It was a historic day in Tulare, as the city's hospital reopened its doors to patients.
"Years from now you can say that you were here when the Tulare community got its hospital back," Tulare Local Healthcare District Board President Kevin Northcraft told a crowd Monday morning.
As board members celebrated the reopening of Tulare Regional Medical Center outside its main doors Monday morning, medical staff welcomed the first hospital patient inside-the first in nearly a year.
"The first patient just came into the ER!" board member Xavier Avila said during his speech.
During the closure of TRMC, patients still showed up at the hospital, seeking medical attention.
Many went to Kaweah Delta Medical Center, which experienced extremely high patient volumes and long wait times.
As a result, Tulare County supervisors declared a local emergency in June.
But in August, the board voted to lease the hospital to Adventist Health.
"The district's broke," Avila said. "We owe millions and millions of dollars. We do not have the capital to open the hospital, or we would have a long time ago. And so there's this understanding with Adventist that they're willing to put the capital in and keep it going, but they're not going to do that unless they can recoup what they put in."
The lease agreement with Adventist needs to be approved by district voters in the November election.
Avila says Measure H is not a tax but is necessary to keep the hospital open.
"It seems that they're opening it back up which is pretty convenient to have especially just in case my daughter needs anything," said Tulare's Thomas Sappington.
"Right, emergencies or anything like that," added his wife, Brittney Padilla. "It's really good to have it back open."
"This is going to heal a big wound that's happened within the city of Tulare," said Tulare Mayor David Macedo. "We've had factions that didn't agree on what should happen here in Tulare with the hospital, but today we start to heal and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the future."
The former hospital manager, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, or HCCA, is still under criminal investigation by the Tulare County District Attorney's Office.
A recent state audit report identified its costly contract and poor decisions by the previous hospital board as factors that led to the closure.
As the hospital reopens, and the rebuilding process continues, Adventist says they're in Tulare for the long haul, ready to provide high quality, faith-based care and exceed all expectations.
Adventist Health says the OB, NICU, and pediatrics units are still not open yet.
They've hired about 260 employees so far, with more on the way.
Officials say Measure H needed to keep Tulare Regional Medical Center open