Corcoran District Hospital, one of the last rural hospitals in the central San Joaquin Valley, has closed as an acute-care general hospital after 50 years in the community.
The closure leaves the community of 11,500 without hospital for surgery and recovery beds and an emergency department. The nearest hospital is about 20 miles away in Hanford.
The 32-bed hospital had all but shut down in March, leaving only outpatient surgery, radiology and laboratory services in operation. Those were closed Friday, said Vonnie Nunes, interim chief executive officer.
"It's sad, but it's kind of like we've already gone through a grieving process," she said.
Twenty-seven employees were terminated with Friday's closure, said Mike Graville, district board member. In March, hospital officials said, 25 were laid off with the closure of inpatient beds and the emergency department.
Graville said eight employees remain.
The rural clinic inside the hospital remains open, and the district has entered into an agreement with Adventist Health Central Valley Network to keep it open.
Adventist plans to take over clinic operations on Nov. 1.
Corcoran's hospital has struggled to remain open for years, Graville said. "We were borrowing money to the hilt, and to be honest with you, (closure) should have been done a couple of years ago."
The hospital has a debt of $1.5 million, Nunes said.
The district will get a lump sum of $500,000 for the first two years of the clinic's lease, and Adventist will have three years under the agreement to purchase the hospital for another $1 million, she said. The purchase requires voter approval.
Adventist sees "great potential for adding health care services in Corcoran, but we want to better understand the resources and community needs first," said Adventist spokeswoman Christine Pickering. "We just learned last week that the lease is moving forward, and we haven't had time to explore opportunities."
Pickering said Adventist likely will hire more employees to meet Corcoran's needs, but it's too soon to know what type of positions or how many. The Corcoran employees can apply for current openings with the Adventist network, she said.
Graville said the hospital district intends to pay its bills, "but that could take a year or two." Once the bills are paid, Graville said the district will remain a taxpayer-supported entity in the community and will have about $300,000 a year in property taxes to use for improving the health of Corcoran residents.
Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle, a Corcoran resident, said the county had loaned the hospital more than $1 million over the past five years to keep it afloat.
"The community was expecting the hospital to be saved and as a representative of the community, I'm very disappointed at the loss of this hospital," Valle said.
Valle said he was born at the hospital. "I feel for the community and I feel for the good folks who have depended on those emergency services being available."
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