By Mary Blyth Jones – Coalinga Press
Coalinga residents have been concerned about the state of Coalinga Regional Medical Center, their only hospital since it closed in 2018 and declared bankruptcy.
When American Advanced Management Group agreed to take over the facility, investing into its renovation and reopening, some Coalingans were relieved while others remained skeptical of this solution.
The agreement was officially approved by the courts on April 11, and AAMG swung into full engagement, working to reopen CRMC. Manpreet Singh heads the acquisition team as it moves toward fully reopening the hospital. This is not the first facility they have ‘rescued,’ nor is it the most beleaguered of them. In fact, Singh is enthusiastic and optimistic about the project.
“There are seven prerequisites to have the California Department of Health re-certify the hospital to get the license,” said Singh. “The license is now in suspense which means it is inactive. To make it active, we have to go through a CDPH survey.”
Singh proceeded to list the steps.
“Pharmacy license is a lengthy process. First step is a rigorous application that we must submit with our Pharmacists credentials. Secondly we must update all Policies and Procedures relating to the facility pharmaceuticals. Third the pharmacy must receive a permit from the DEA. Because the facility will be stocking narcotics among many other medications, an extraordinarily in-depth back ground check needs to be completed on the owner and pharmacist this process takes multiple applications as we are dealing with the Drug Enforcement Agency. After that is complete, the California State Board of Pharmacy also needs to approve a license.”
After that is approved, and the Board of Pharmacy issues the License then the hospital can start buying medications. They cannot purchase any pharmaceuticals before that. In order to pass the initial California Department of Health (CDPH) requirements, the facility must have adequate medications on site by the time the CDPH comes out.
Fire and Life safety is another important facet of being certified to open. Singh reported that the fire extinguishers he had already checked have been kept up to date, and has also noted “that quarterly alarm systems test are being run by Kim Wells the Plant Operations Director that has been with the facility for years, she will be big asset to our team.”
The local fire marshal will review the entire facility for fire safety including fire panels, Suppression system, all ADA accessibility requirement met of the facility, kitchens, skilled nursing facilities and all other areas. Each will have to meet stringent requirements in order to become a functioning hospital. Even the landscaping is evaluated for safety.
Public Health and Environment certification is also required. This covers general health requirements as well as dealing with infectious diseases, positive and negative air pressure in surgical suites, and other areas. The agency is responsible for the licensure, regulation, inspection, and certification of all hospitals in California.
All equipment in the lab needs to be tested, validated by the Lab Director, certified by the Preventative Maintenance specialist.
“Lab is a big ticket item,” remarked Singh. “In order to retrieve the lab license, we need to validate all the instruments. All of the equipment we have in the lab needs to be tested. We need to buy enzymes to run tests and make sure the tests are accurately reporting data. Our lab director will be doing that, and then the Pathologist will sign off on these validations. This is process that takes a couple of weeks.”
“Daniel Flores is our purchasing and maintenance man,” said Singh. “He does the coordinating of preventative maintenance on all instruments and equipment. If something isn’t working correctly, he will take care of fixing it.”
“You might not see work being done on site,” said Singh, “but this preliminary factor happens behind the scenes. There is a lot of work that is just applications, reviewing and updating the Policies and Procedures to the newest state standards.”
After the hospital has its validations, policies and procedures in place, then a lab survey will come out, which will be conducted by Lab Field Services (LFS).
California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) is a major part of certification. They are responsible for checking the minute details of every hospital in California. “We do not have any open projects on site other than the helipad project,” said Singh.
He went on to explain that he believes the only problem with the helipad was filing appropriate paperwork.
Once an inspector comes to complete a Testing, Inspecting, Observation (TIO) and files a report… “That won’t be a big problem,” said Singh. That inspector will check through innumerable processes and system on site. OSHPD will have to deem the hospital “Occupancy Status” once the IOR has done a full systems Test and Evaluation. This is a critical piece of the puzzle to have in order to have the CDPH conduct a survey to reopen the Hospital
Radiology is another area of concern. It is a two step process. The instruments need to be tested and calibrated to certify that they are working correctly. This also has to be signed off by a physicist. A PACS System (Picture Archive and Communication System) also needs to be in place. This allows manipulation, recall and communication about and with radiological images and data. This entire process takes up to six weeks to complete.
One thing Coalinga residents will be able to see soon is the exterior painting of the facility, landscaping, paving, and re-striping of the parking lot in the future, AAMG will host job fairs when it is closer to the time they will be opening.
“Our number one priority is to get this facility reopened as fast as possible,” said Manpreet Singh. “We cannot yet put a date on when we are expecting to open but we want the community to know that our team is working restlessly to make sure we open very soon.”