CEO issues plea to keep California hospital running

Gary Herbst, the CEO of cash-strapped Kaweah Health, has turned to county leaders seeking help to keep the Visalia, Calif.-based hospital afloat, the The San Joaquin Valley Sun reported March 5. 

Mr. Herbst said he is open to various forms of help, according to the report. Ideas include a sales tax measure, a parcel tax and American Rescue Plan Act funding. He also sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom seeking an extension to the 2030 deadline for seismic compliance, which is expected to cost the hospital $730 million. 

Prior to the pandemic, the hospital had 140 days of cash on hand, according to the report. By the end of January, it had 73 days of cash on hand. Mr. Herbst told the Tulare County Board of Supervisors that number will continue to dwindle unless changes are made. 

Kaweah saw a $136 million operating loss from March 2022 through December 2022, largely due to lacking Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursement, rising labor expenses, and rising pharmaceutical and medical supply expenses, according to the report. 

More than 130 employees have been laid off, and up to 100 more could be laid off this month, according to the report. It has also closed a skilled nursing unit, an outpatient neurosurgery clinic and a diabetes education clinic. It also limited elective surgeries for Medi-Cal patients. 

Mr. Herbst said the layoffs and closures are part of a financial recovery plan, but there is no guarantee Kaweah will stay open without outside help.  

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