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A bankrupt California hospital left a health care desert. Two medical groups move to reopen it

A bankrupt San Joaquin Valley hospital whose closure led the state to create a bailout fund for distressed providers could reopen under the banner of two major California health systems.

UCSF Health and Adventist Health today announced that they plan to team up and submit a plan to revive Madera Community Hospital, which shut down just over a year ago.

Officials from UCSF and Adventist did not disclose a price tag and said they were keeping details quiet given the nature of the bidding process in bankruptcy court. The court has to review and approve the proposal.

“We’re committed to not only reopening the facility but ensuring that these facilities are both clinically credible and financially sustainable into the future,” Suresh Gunasekaran, president of UCSF Health, said during the press call.

San Joaquin Valley lawmakers joined them at a press briefing, where they embraced the partnership. They called it “unique” and a “dream come true” for a region that has fewer doctors per capita than wealthier parts of the state.

They said the proposal would restore critical health services that were stripped away from Madera residents and bring the resources of the University of California Health system to an underserved community.

“The partnership will bring prestige and stability that can help to rebuild community trust and restore faith in the quality of care that customers can expect to receive,” said Sen. Anna Caballero, a Democrat whose district includes Madera.

The news comes just days after UCSF Health announced that it had agreed to purchase two other struggling hospitals in San Francisco from Dignity Health: St. Mary’s Medical Center and St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

UCSF already leads the largest medical education program in the San Joaquin Valley via its regional campus in Fresno where it trains more than 300 medical students a year.

Several medical groups and management companies have courted Madera Community Hospital with potential partnerships, but none has materialized.

Most recently, the hospital was exploring a partnership with Modesto-based health management company American Advanced Management Inc. The company in a written statement late Thursday said it has worked for months on its plan to reopen the hospital and that it expects to gain approval from the bankruptcy court next week.

“Any change in direction at this point opens the door to many more months of delays, further jeopardizing lives and health in the Madera community, as studies have shown. This hospital and this community cannot afford any further delays and uncertainty in returning vital health care services to Madera,” The company said. “The path forward with American Advanced Management is not theoretical, to be determined, speculative, or uncertain. We will open this facility, grow services, and meet the community’s needs.”

Adventist Health had previously expressed interest in taking over operations, but ultimately pulled out citing that it was unable to find a “fiscally viable solution.”

“Adventist Health looked at the circumstances surrounding Madera and realized we just couldn’t do it on our own,” said Kerry Heinrich, President and CEO at Adventist Health. “We want this to be a quality institution and serve all people of Madera and the surrounding communities.”

The bankruptcy and closure of Madera Community Hospital left a county of 160,000 people without critical hospital services, forcing residents to travel at least 30 to 40 minutes to hospitals in Fresno or Merced.

This spurred lawmakers to allocate $300 million in loans for it and other troubled hospitals. The state began doling out the money last fall, earmarking up to $57 million for Madera alone. That money is currently still in possession of the state, and will not become available to Madera Community until a purchase deal or partnership is hashed out.

This story was updated to include a statement American Advanced Management Inc.

Supported by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF), which works to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford. Visit www.chcf.org to learn more.

Read More at the Santa Maria Times.