The troubled Tulare Regional Medical Center and its clinics will temporarily cease operations at midnight Sunday, district officials said Thursday.
In addition, hospital district officials say they are beginning talks with Fresno-based Community Medical Centers to stabilize the Tulare facility. Before Community could take over, the California Department of Health would have to give its blessing.
“We don’t yet know what the desired start date, scope, or duration of that arrangement would be,” said Michelle Von Tersch, a Community spokeswoman. “But Tulare Regional plays a vital role in the south Valley, and, consistent with our mission, Community Medical Centers will assist the hospital district if we can.”
The suspension of operations by the 112-bed Tulare hospital is voluntary. The district’s president, Kevin Northcraft, told The Fresno Bee that more than 500 employees “ will be getting pink slips this weekend.”
The hospital has been caring for only a handful of patients recently as Tulare area residents sought treatment elsewhere.
Suspending operations was a strategic move, Northcraft said.
“We were left with few options to temporarily suspend it ourselves so we can open it up quickly and with less obstacles” such as state sanctions, Northcraft said.
A bankruptcy court judge ruled this week that the hospital district could sever its contract with its operator, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, and find another management group.
As of Thursday evening, the company hadn’t filed a closure plan with the state, the online Valley Voice reported.
The chief executive officer of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates said that the hospital could have remained open.
“HCCA was prepared to continue with the management of the hospital and provide financing alternatives to the board which would have kept the hospital open,” Dr. Benny Benzeevi said in a statement.
The three closest hospitals to Tulare Regional Medical Center are Visalia’s Kaweah Delta Medical Center, Reedley’s Adventist Medical Center and Porterville’s Sierra View Medical Center.