Nurses at California hospital walk off the job after not being paid

Tulare (Calif.) Regional Medical Center was on the brink of closure in 2013, and the hospital is once again in a dire financial situation.

When faced with shuttering its facilities in 2013, the 112-bed hospital started looking for a lease or affiliation partner. In January 2014, the hospital entered into a management agreement with HealthCare Conglomerate Associates, which is led by Benny Benzeevi, MD.

HCCA led Tulare Regional through a financial turnaround, but the hospital has not sustained those results. During a board meeting Wednesday, Tulare Regional CFO Alan Germany said admissions, surgeries, deliveries and emergency department visits were all down in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared to the same period of the year prior. The hospital has $2.1 million cash on hand, while its accounts payable total $26.7 million, according to the Valley Voice.

HCCA, which is paid by the local hospital district, said it is done footing the hospital's bills. "HCCA provided substantial revolving funding to the hospital over the years, to a cumulative total of $14 million," Dr. Benzeevi said at the board meeting, according to the Valley Voice. "But in light of the current destructive political environment, HCCA will not continue to do so."

Tensions have flared between HCCA and the hospital district's board since last year, and that battle is partially to blame for a recent credit rating downgrade by Fitch Ratings. The debt rating agency said the downgrade reflected the hospital's failure to restore liquidity and political instability in its governing board.

On Thursday, less than 24 hours after Dr. Benzeevi declared HCCA would no longer provide financial support for the hospital, more than 40 nurses and some other staff at Tulare Regional were not paid. After not receiving their checks, some nurses walked off the job, according to the Visalia Times-Delta.

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