According to the Center for Rural Affairs, Rural hospitals have been closing at a rate of nearly one per month since 2010. Colusa Regional Medical Center makes the list at number 72 as it locked its doors for a final time on Friday, April 22, 2016.
From its humble beginning in 1877, the community-based Hospital served the public just shy of 140 years. From the bumps, bruises, common colds, to some of the most traumatic injuries, the staff, doctors, and nurses were available and willing to help.
As the hospital locked its doors, it wasn’t without a promise for a better future as several medical groups are currently seeking the opportunity to serve the communities of Colusa County.
CRMC CEO and Chief Restructuring Officer, Wayne Allen commented there are eight interested buyers, and serious discussions were being held with three groups; however, Allen said that it would at least be two to four weeks before they reach an agreement.
“This community is too big not to have health care,” said Allen, “we are working as quickly as we can to get this solved.”
Allen added that it could realistically have a buyer for the hospital within three months; however, he added that should a buyer want to do substantial improvements or modifications it could delay the opening of the hospital longer.
Three rural clinics to remain open – acquired by Adventist Health
Soon after completing a series of community meetings, Allen announced Wednesday, April 20, 2016, that it had entered into an agreement with Adventist Health to acquire three rural health clinics. This agreement would ensure that medical care is available to the local communities after the hospital imminent closure.
“As we work through this difficult situation in our community, we’re pleased to announce that Adventist Health will assume responsibility for our community care clinics in Arbuckle, Colusa, and Williams,” said Allen, “The health system will provide stability and access to health services in our region’s rural communities.”
Adventist Health operates the largest rural health network in California, with more than 15 percent of the rural health clinics in the state. “As a faith-based organization, we are eager to share our mission of inspiring health, wholeness and hope,” said Jeff Eller, president and chief executive officer of Adventist Health’s Northern California Region. “We are pleased to have identified a sustainable solution to provide quality care to community members,” said Bob Beehler, Adventist Health’s vice president for Market Development/Mergers and Acquisitions.
During the Tuesday, April 19, County Board of Supervisors meeting, it was unanimously approved to allocate a contingent $100,000 a month towards the cost of keeping three of the rural clinics opened. However, as stated by CRMC CEO, Wayne Allen during that meeting, the funding was not needed with the recent acquisition by Adventist Health.
Why did the hospital close?
Fingers were pointed, emotions overflowed, tough questions were asked, and employees vented their frustrations; however, definitive answers are not available.
A perfect storm of reduced reimbursement rates, unbilled services, government regulation, and other expenses contributed to the hospital’s $12.79 million dollar deficit.
After being hired as the CRMC’s Chief Restructuring Officer, Wayne Allen quickly discovered that organization faced a deficit of $3 Million at the end of the 2015 fiscal year and the hospital no cash.
“I presented the findings to the board, and the decision was made to close the hospital,” said Allen.
After completing its 2016 fiscal year audit, Allen commented that the hospital lost nearly $6 million.
“The hospital had no safety net,” said Allen, “It is typical in rural communities to have a tax revenue to help cover hospital shortfalls. However, this was never put into place – and it’s too late now.”
CRMC’s Board President, Gary Teragawa, commented that a majority of the hospital’s cash went towards upgrades, state reviews, and deferred maintenance.
“The money we had was spent to keep the hospital open,” said Teragawa.
Teragawa commented that no illicit spending was to blame.
Ambulance Service Extended
With the Hospital Board of Directors seeking a buyer for the facility; residents have concern over ambulatory services in the event of an emergency.
“The county has negotiated with Enloe to provide an additional service so that the we have two full-time ambulances, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week,” said Colusa County Supervisor, Mark Marshall.
The Colusa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved to allocate $22,000 a month towards the added expense in providing the second ambulance full time within the county.
“Should an ambulance be extended on a call or out of the county, we’ve worked out a solution to have area ambulances from surrounding counties available if needed,” said Marshall.
Colusa County Chief Administrative Officer, Wendy Tyler commented that the county’s medical services community are working diligently to ensure things are in place in the event of a hospital closure.
“Our citizens will be well cared for, with the services we have – although they may be more limited than usual,” said Tyler.
Colusa City Fire Chief, Randy Dunn commented that the department has purchased a basic life support ambulance to assist during non-life threatening emergency events.
Urgent Care & Emergency Room
During the Tuesday, April 19, 2016, Board of Supervisors meeting it was discussed that the county locate and equip, staff, an urgent care facility; however, County Supervisor, Mark Marshall said it was unnecessary.
“It is not in the best interest of the county to go forward with an urgent care facility,” said Supervisor Marshall, “in the event should an ambulance stop at the facility it would delay in care should they need to go to a facility that offers a higher level of care.”
Supervisor Marshall commented that it would be beneficial to the county to provide a $100,000 a month subsidy to the Colusa Regional Medical Center Rural Health Clinics to provide basic health care.
Marshall commented that if the county operated an urgent care facility, it would cost the county $500,000 a month or more. However, the subsidy was no longer needed as CRMC announced Adventist Health acquired the three rural health clinics Wednesday afternoon.
A Community that once saved its Hospital
Taking a step back through the Archives of the Colusa Daily Sun, it was reported in February, 1966, that the County Board of Supervisors, then owners and operators of Colusa Memorial Hospital, took a hard look at the affairs of the facility after the county collector reported a total of $303,470 in credit bureau and small claims as well as an outstanding accounts receivable valued at $123,549.
This financial information leads the County Board of Supervisors to seek a management company to run the hospital efficiently. In 1970, the Colusa County Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with Eskaton, a non-profit corporation to lease and manage the hospital.
Just 12 years later, in 1982, Eskaton announced it would sell the hospital to the Community Hospital Association of America (CHAMA). In 1998, CHAMMA filed bankruptcy, leaving the hospital vulnerable to liquidation, and potentially closing its doors.
However, a community vested in its health care, area citizens came together and saved its ailing hospital from the brink of bankruptcy in 2001.
A core group of individuals joined their efforts and purpose and formed a local non-profit organization Colusa Regional Medical Center (CRMC) to save the local hospital.
As published in the Rural Community Assistance Corporation publication, CRMC had not intended to be the hospital operator. Rather, the group intended to help locate an acceptable lessee to take over the hospital.
Unable to secure financing with local banks, the group raised just over $500,000 from community members and $320,000 was pledged to the project from the County of Colusa, tobacco settlement funds. State and federal agencies also played a huge role in securing additional funds needed to purchase the hospital.
On August 31, 2001, approximately five months after the project began – the hospital saved.
As this story wraps, on April 1, 2016, Colusa Regional Medical Center announced that it was no longer financially viable, and it closed its doors on Friday, April 22, 2016.
As the current board of directors seeks a buyer or management company, the community awaits the Phoenix to return from the ashes.
According to a statement posted on the Colusa Regional Medical Center’s Website, patient medical records will be maintained in place in a secure and confidential manner beyond the date of closure. HIMS Medical Record Director, Rachel Betke Mena, R.H.I.A. will remain the custodian of records for the facility through the date of transition to new ownership. All request for medical records must be received in writing and faxed to (530) 458-3219 or mailed to Colusa Regional Medical Center 199 E Webster Street, Colusa. Records can be picked up Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. For more information visit www.colusamedicalcenter.org or call (530) 458-3259.