Commission Vote Endorses Hospital

With a 4-1 Vote, Coalinga Regional Medical Center, at least for now, receives endorsement and support from Planning Commission Tuesday night.

At the recent Coalinga Planning Commission meeting, August 13, 6 PM, a tense crowd gathered for the public hearing regarding a text zoning amendment which would have made it possible for Adventist health to build an 11,000 square foot medical clinic on the near the corner of Forest and Polk Streets. The problem with this proposal, most residents agreed, was more complicated than a single issue.

Sean Brewer, Coalinga’s Community Development Director, spent a fair amount of time reading through the proposal and findings in a report. This was presented at the opening segment of the meeting.

  1. Coalinga Hospital District board and earlier CEO Wayne Allen reached out to Adventist when the Coalinga facility was struggling and eventually closed. After sending a 17 member team to the Coalinga location, Adventist decided it was not interested in helping out with the hospital, citing that there had been no noticeable increase of patients at their already existing clinic in Coalinga, on Forest and 5th; a facility they rent.
  2. Adventist, in their current location, does not accept private insurance and caters exclusively to MediCal and MediCare patients. They do not accept private insurance at all, nor any supplemental insurance plans.
  3. A clinic might be nice to have, but it, in no way, offers the same services as an acute care hospital. Emergency and trauma cases would still need to be seen at another location. Planned operating hours for the proposed facility were 8 AM through 5 PM, Monday through Friday. If someone had a need after hours, they would still need an additional facility.
  4. Coalinga Regional Medical Center plans to reopen all facets of the former facility and add additional components. They plan to have the facility functioning by January: Lab, Radiology, Pharmacy, Emergency, Rural Health Clinic, Skilled Nursing Facility. American Advanced Management Group has a success record, and experience in accomplishing these goals. The group has already invested significantly in the project and has been working to reopen the center
  5. CRMC will offer a significant number of jobs to Coalinga residents, rehiring as many former employees as possible. The Adventist group planned to hire 16 employees.
  6. Most of these objections are due to a clause in the contract between AAMG and CRMC that clearly states that if a conflicting facility opens in Coalinga, AAMG has the clear and simply option of canceling all agreements.
  7. Most residents strongly objected to the stated finding the Brewer’s report which read:Staff reviewed the findings for a zoning text amendment and found that there were no indications that the amendment would be detrimental to the public interest, health, safety, convenience, or welfare of the City.

Planning Commission members asked a reasonable number of questions and addressed the representative from Kelly Architecture and Planning, the group responsible for the actual design and construction  of the proposed project. Most of the questions were unanswered due to the representative (understandably) not being privy to that sort of information.

Planning Commissioners repeatedly reiterated how beautiful the plans were, and how well-designed the facilities were in general.

After the reading and initial questions from the Commission, it was time for residents to speak. And speak they did.

Approximately a dozen residents shared their concerns and passion for CRMC’s reopening. The most common theme in these speeches was that if the clinic was allowed to be built, CRMC would most likely never reopen due to the exclusivity clause in the contract the AAMG group had with Coalinga.

One mother, Andrea Rosas, described the health issue that occurred when her young child nearly died with a heart incident.

Melanie Vargas enumerated the insane number of hospital visits necessary just this year due to the loss of her leg.

Many residents brought up the fact that due to the distance of Coalinga to any other true medical facility, ambulances were busy transporting people and were unable to respond to other local needs because they were tied up with transport.

Sonia Murphy told the commission that they had not received a letter she had sent to them yet, but she was deeply concerned about many issues, including the lack of a skilled nursing facility.

Former Mayor Nathan Vosburg gave an eloquent and impassioned speech about the desperate needs of Coalinga, the perplexing situation, the struggle of people wanting to be heard, the difficulty of making “the right choice,” and more. He reiterated many of the earlier statements from others about the need for true emergent care and health support. He also introduced the argument that to state that: “Staff reviewed the findings for a zoning text amendment and found that there were no indications that the amendment would be detrimental to the public interest, health, safety, convenience, or welfare of the City.” was shortsighted and insupportable.

City Treasurer, James Vosburg also spoke (loudly and clearly) about the fiscal impact of the proposed project citying that the community was already paying of a whopping $12 million debt in bonds. He called the Planning Commission to exercise “Fiscal Prudence.”

The final speaker was Dr. Gurpreet Singh who directs AAMG. He spoke about the goals of CRMC, and the process of reopening that facility. He answer extensive questions from the Planning Commission and offered the hopeful date of reopening the facility as January.

NOTE: Transcripts of actual comments will be forthcoming. Transcribing takes a while, but Coalinga Press knows many people want news of the end result. More information will be added as we are able to do so.

After the crowd subsided in its call to be heard, everyone who wanted to speak had the opportunity to do so.

Commissioner Sara Pruitt called for a vote to deny the zoning and ordinance waivers. This meant that by voting yes, each commissioner was agreeing to deny the plans from Adventist. All commissioners with the exception of Michele Helmar voted against the Adventist project.

An enormous round of applause erupted from the audience, and Dr. Singh shared a smile. There wa a ten minute recess granted by Chairman Josh Sailer, and audience members expressed their relief and new hope for Coalinga among themselves. Dr. Singh mingled with the audience and answered many, many questions.