Tulare hospital board responds to critical grand jury report

Tulare Regional Medical Center
Tulare Regional Medical Center

In answer to a critical grand jury report, the board of directors of the Tulare Local Health Care District said this week that the grand jury demonstrated “unmitigated bias” against the district.

In a response signed by all five members, the board of the health care district, which owns Tulare Regional Medical Center, said the grand jury report “is long on conclusions but short on facts” and unfairly faults the current board of directors for actions of past boards.

The disagreement between the hospital board and the grand jury has the potential to develop further, because one grand juror said Thursday he will write a rebuttal to the hospital board’s response.

In mid-April, in a report titled “Tower of Shame,” the Tulare County grand jury called for the hospital board to issue “without delay” a full accounting of $85 million in bond money used to build the still-unfinished hospital addition in Tulare.

The grand jury report charged that the health care district routinely withheld information from a bond-oversight committee about how the money was spent.

That never happened, the board of directors said in its reply.

“By its own admission, the grand jury did not look at the four independent examinations performed and certified by two independent auditing firms, covering the entire course of the bond expenditure, that found no wrongdoing,” the response stated.

The final bond report was made available for public review in December, the response stated.

But grand jury member John Hobbs of Tulare, chairman of the grand jury committee that wrote the critical report, said the hospital board failed to provide the documents despite repeated requests.

“They talk about it,” Hobbs said. “When push comes to shove, they don’t pony up.”

He said the grand jury has again requested the documents.

The hospital board also faulted the grand jury for failing to note that “the current board has long since corrected the many deficiencies of prior boards.”

For example, the current board saved the Tulare hospital from potential bankruptcy, it said.

“The current board took the hospital from the verge of bankruptcy in late 2013 to its present position of financial strength in only two years,” the response stated.

The health care district board said it won’t follow a grand jury recommendation to undergo training in governmental transparency, calling it “unwarranted” because the board does annual training about its responsibilities.

Another recommendation is to disband the current bond oversight committee and establish a new one. The board will vote on disbanding the current committee but won’t seat a new committee, the board response said.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold