California county eyes options to save lone community hospital

The Madera (Calif.) County Board of Supervisors is looking into allocating half of its remaining American Rescue Plan Act funding to resume operations at Madera Community Hospital. The city's sole hospital for about 150,000 residents shut its doors just before the new year after Trinity Health's plan to buy it fell through. 

The county board of supervisors met Jan. 10 to consider options to save the community hospital, The Sun reported. Reallocating $7 million of the county's remaining $14 million in ARPA COVID-19 funding is one option under consideration. To save the hospital, money would be redirected from five other projects Madera County had already planned to use the funding for, including a pandemic-related 311 call center. 

The county's board of supervisors also directed staff to come up with a plan that would enable it to hire a consultant to weigh different options to save the hospital, including the formation of a healthcare district. Hiring a consultant and a possible district formation is estimated to cost $1.2 million, county staff said during the meeting, according to The Sun.

Madera Community Hospital's closure spurred emergency declarations in both Madera County and neighboring Fresno County, with local officials concerned over the region's lack of healthcare access and the increased strain other hospitals will face as a result. Sans a hospital, Madera residents now face at least a half-hour commute for care at already overcrowded facilities. Meanwhile, Fresno County's largest health system, Clovis, Calif.-based Community Health system, has gone out of network with several commercial insurance plans.

Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno is among other area facilities bearing the brunt of Madera Community Hospital's closure. Danielle Campagne, MD, head of emergency department care at Community Regional, said the facility is already "blowing up" with patients, with dozens being cared for in hallways, KVPR reported Jan. 5. 

"We're in dire straits. Patients are struggling and it's really hard," she said. "Madera … is going to be the tipping point for us."  

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