California hospital's future depends on 'tower of shame'

Construction stalled in 2015 on a new patient tower at the former Tulare (Calif.) Regional Medical Center, and the unfinished project was the focus of a 2016 grand jury report titled "Tower of Shame." Today, the tower provides a pathway to a better future for the hospital, according to The San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Voters approved an $85 million bond in 2005 to build the tower. In 2016, the project was unfinished and the Tulare County Grand Jury said the local healthcare district failed to inform the public of how the $85 million in bond money was spent, according to a 2016 report from The Fresno Bee

The hospital experienced financial challenges in the years after the grand jury report was issued. It filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and closed down for a year. The hospital reopened in October and entered into a lease agreement with Roseville, Calif.-based Adventist Health. The hospital, now called Adventist Health Tulare, is exploring ways to maintain solid financial footing in the future, including finishing the patient tower.

Much of the existing hospital will not comply with new seismic safety requirements that take effect in California in 2030. Finishing the patient tower by 2030 is essential for the hospital's future, Tulare Hospital District President Kevin Northcraft told The San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Completing the tower would cost between $40 million and $60 million, and the hospital district could issue bonds to fund the project. Another option is to sell the hospital to Adventist Health, but it may be years before that option is explored.

"We fit very well in [Adventist Health's] plans for expansion in the Central Valley, and so it's something they may want to look at down the road," Mr. Northcraft told The San Joaquin Valley Sun. "But at this point I think they're just trying to get the hospital fully functional. And I think it would probably be several years before they consider that option."

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