Tulare County proclaims local emergency, hoping state can help reopen hospital

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- On Election Day, Tulare County Supervisors cast their vote on the subject of Tulare Regional Medical Center.

Seven long months have passed since the hospital closed, following a long feud between the hospital's board of directors, and the company that managed it, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, or HCCA.

Hundreds of people were laid off, and the city of Tulare still doesn't have a hospital.

Attempts to reopen it, including Assemblymember Devon Mathis' recent $22 million requests to the state, have failed.

So last week, the hospital's board voted to declare a local emergency.

"(Members of the board) know that there is a tremendous need as ambulances are leaving Tulare with their sirens blaring, having to drive to another facility, because our hospital is closed," said Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel.

Vander Poel's district includes the hospital.

He's intimately familiar with the negative impact its closure has had. He says one of his family members had to wait for hours to be seen at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia.

A county document says Kaweah Delta has absorbed many of Tulare's patients and has operated on overflow status since the winter, setting up two tents to help handle the high patient flows.

In response to the serious problem, Vander Poel and his fellow supervisors took action Tuesday, proclaiming their own local emergency due to "a critical shortage of healthcare facilities."

"You the county recognizing that that micro or local emergency truly is causing an emergency at the whole county level," Vander Poel said. "And so what we are doing is signaling to the state of California Office of Emergency Services that there is a true emergency here."

The county will send a copy of the proclamation to Cal OES.

Vander Poel hopes they hear the call for help, and provide emergency funds to reopen the hospital soon.

If it is still closed in October, the county says it could close for good.

Board member Xavier Avila appreciates the county's message.

"That ups our chances with the state, with the governor, of getting some funds to get this thing open," Avila said.
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