Plans to reopen emergency room gone in Coalinga as attempts to keep hospital open fail

Coalinga Regional Medical Center will close by June 30, CEO Wayne Allen said Friday, June 15, 2018.
Coalinga Regional Medical Center will close by June 30, CEO Wayne Allen said Friday, June 15, 2018.

Coalinga Regional Medical Center will close completely by June 30.

Plans to keep the rural hospital operating under new management fell apart this week when the board of directors were told the California Department of Public Health would not fast-track a reopening of the emergency room and of acute-care beds.

The board of directors voted Tuesday night to put the hospital into full closure mode, said CEO Wayne Allen.

The hospital closed its rural health clinic Wednesday, Allen said. About 40 residents remain in the hospital's skilled nursing facility and are being transferred to other nursing homes. About 70 employees are at the nursing home, Allen said. When the hospital was at full operation, it employed about 200 people.

The hospital had announced in May that it would be closing by June 15 because of financial losses of $4.5 million. On May 4, it closed the emergency room leaving the city of 16,658 without an emergency room for 40 miles. The hospital also had closed the laboratory, radiology department, pharmacy and 24-bed medical-surgical unit.

The hospital board of directors had hoped to salvage the hospital, signing a contract May 24 to turn over operations to American Advanced Management Services of Modesto on June 1. The agreement, however, was predicated on the hospital receiving approval by the California Department of Public Health to reopen all operations. "The state did not approve the takeover," Allen said.

But the Centralized Applications Unit at the California Department of Public Health determined that the hospital had completely closed as of May 4, which would require a consuming process to reopen. The hospital does not have the money to stay closed and undergo that process , he said. "When you're faced with an unknown time frame which has been phrased as several weeks or several months, you're out business," Allen said.

In a statement, the California Department of Public Health said it received notice on May 2 from the hospital of its intent to close as of June 15, and an additional notice said that all hospital services ceased on May 4. State licensing laws require a hospital to provide, "at a minimum eight basic services in order to be eligible for, and maintain, a General Acute Care Hospital license," and Coalinga is no longer doing so, the state said.

The hospital and American Advanced Management Services were told that the skilled nursing facility, rural health clinic and outpatient therapy services are operating unlawfully at this time, the department said.

The cessation of hospital services also is considered a voluntary termination from Medicare and the state Medi-Cal programs and the hospital no longer will be reimbursed for services provided to patients with those government-sponsored insurance programs, the state said.

To reopen, the hospital has to show that it can provide the basic services and to do so will need to hire staff, have in place any contracted services and have supplies on hand, the state said. "Once the operator has completed all these necessary steps, the facility may request approval to reopen the hospital and its related services." The hospital could then reapply to be reimbursed for services by Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Barbara Anderson: 559-441-6310, @beehealthwriter
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