Hospital to close
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
A temporary sign trailer tells motorists that Madera Community Hospital will close despite an outcry of support from the community. Madera Community Hospital was forced to close its doors after an agreement with Trinity Health fell through. The hospital closed its emergency room at midnight Friday and its labor and delivery department on Wednesday.
Concerned citizens, leaders unite to try to find solution
Sheriff issues State of Emergency declaration
The Madera County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to discuss the closure of Madera Community Hospital and it became standing-room only for many concerned citizens.
The Board met for nearly four hours Thursday and listened to the concerns of many about the hospital’s closure.
After getting approved for the purchase of Madera Community Hospital on December 15, Trinity Health pulled out of the deal last week. As a result, Madera Community Hospital will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday and has closed its doors.
Before the public was allowed to speak at the meeting, Madera County department officials in public health, behavioral health, corrections and public safety gave details on how they will be moving forward and what the impact the hospital’s closure will mean.
Newly-elected Assemblyman Esmeralda Soria said she has been on the phone 24/7 over the past week to help keep the hospital open. She said she will be a supporter every step of the way to try to get the hospital reopened.
“Since I found out, about seven days ago, about the imminent closure of the hospital, I have been working around the clock with Sen. Anna Caballero,” Soria said. “We did have some very positive meetings. I was on Zoom for 10 hours. We had meetings with Karen (Paolinelli, MCH CEO) to see how all the partners are going to work to ensure there will be some sort of facility to provides services, maybe not to the level they will be providing. This community deserves to have some sort of hospital.”
The floor was open to public comments and many people made their opinions felt about why the hospital should stay open and what it means to the community.
“It’s wrong for the community and wrong for people in the community that have nowhere else to go,” said MCH nurse Nina Falcon. “We care about the patients and our families. We are getting sucker punched.”
There was also discussion amongst the comments about who to blame, however, the board later said that they are past the blaming stage. They need to try to find a way to get the hospital reopened.
Volunteer Chaplain Joyce Lane urged the Board of Supervisors, the Madera City Council and other entities to work together.
However, Madera Chamber of Commerce CEO Debi Bray may have said it best when she said that the hospital has been there for everyone of us and now is the time for us to take care of them.
Madera City Councilwoman Cece Gallegos said that having the hospital close is a state of emergency in Madera County.
Madera County Supervisor Robert Poythress, who is also a member of the MCH Board, said it was a perfect storm of events that caused the catastrophic turn of events — COVID, lack of medical funding and traveling nurses.
“Any hospital that is primarily a Medi-Cal hospital and have to pay the salaries of traveling nurses is a recipe for disaster,” he said. “There’s nowhere to go, but down. Imagine $220 an hour for traveling nurses, which is more than doctors earn. Those traveling nurses are 40 percent of our nurses. Before COVID, there might be two or three. When those two factors hit, it was a spiraling vortex so there is no room except for where we are today.”
Madera County Administrator Jay Varney asked Madera County Sheriff and Office of Emergency Services director Tyson Pogue if the closure would constitute a state of emergency act.
“If he (Tyson) says that if Madera County would enter into the state of emergency, we would bring it back to the board Tuesday to ratify it,” Varney said.
“After listening to the department heads, my colleagues and input from the community, I do believe there is a threat of imminent peril to the community,” Pogue said. “This likely fits the criteria.”
Pogue said he would do more research on the situation before actually declaring the state of emergency.
“Based on my preliminary research, I do believe we do fit that criteria,” he said. “I am not aware of any other county that has declared under similar circumstances.This declaration is a formal request to ask the state for their help and support. Our state representatives have been working hard on this so this furthers their ability to help us.
He also urged Madera County Health Officer Dr. Simon Paul to research a potential health emergency.
“I don’t know the criteria that needs to be met, but we should look into that,” Pogue said. “This will impact public safety, emergency medical services, at-risk population, as well as law enforcement.”
“It will be very important for us to do this,” said Supervisor Tom Wheeler. “We have to let everyone know what is going on.”