This story was updated on June 28, 2017, at 8:50 PM to reflect recent developments
PUBLISHERS NOTE: The Pioneer Review staff will continue to report on the developments that occur with this topic. Check back for updates, or see the full report in the July 5 edition of the Pioneer Review.
Less than 24 hours after the County of Colusa announced that American Specialty HealthCare would abandon Colusa Medical Center, lines of communication are restored, discussions regarding the sale of the hospital property have resumed, and the two parties are working together with a renewed focus on re-opening the hospital.
American Specialty Health and county representatives met today at Colusa Medical Center to take local media on a tour of the facility and to show that fences had, indeed, been mended.
“Well, we’ve had some discussions with American Specialty, and they’ve reassured us that they are committed to this hospital, and we take them at their word and representation, and it’s our goal to get this hospital open. We are fully supportive of them, and we want to move forward,” said Colusa County Counsel Marcos Kropf.
Colusa attorney Ted Mehr, hired to represent American Specialty HealthCare last night, echoed that sentiment at the beginning of Wednesday’s informal meeting.
“We’ve had some great meetings with the county,” Mehr said. “We’ve had some good meetings, we’re back on track and moving in a good direction.”
It all changed in the course of a few hours on Wednesday. At 2:45 PM, Kropf said he had yet to meet with American Specialty HealthCare representatives, but would be doing so shortly.
“When it comes to negotiations, I think they’re changing their tune. If they don’t want to walk away from it, I guess we’ll see what happens,” Kropf said at the time.
The county stated in a press release on Tuesday that American Specialty HealthCare President Dr. Gurpreet Singh had indicated his company would be abandoning the hospital. Singh and the company’s CEO Gia Smith called the Pioneer Review after the article had been published on Tuesday night to refute that claim, indicating that work to re-open the hospital would continue.
“Today, I told them that if they wanted us to keep spending the money, they needed to make a decision on when they are going to hand over the land, or when they are going to sell the land… My board will not allow us to spend more and more money, unless (the county will) promise us (they) will give us the land, or that (they) will help us financially,” Singh said over the phone on Tuesday night.
Kropf stood by the county’s statement in a phone interview at 2:45 PM on Wednesday, saying that the county “absolutely” believed that the company would be abandoning the Colusa Medical Center following Tuesday’s negotiations for the sale of the property.
“We didn’t throw out the press release for nothing. We were told specifically by Dr. Singh that he was going to deliver the keys to us and needed approximately two weeks to move equipment out of the hospital,” Kropf said. “He said that they couldn’t make it happen. It was unequivocal. I asked if he wanted to talk to his board first, and he said that he was done. I told him we would work on the timeline with him, and that I would send him a confirmation letter today. That changed overnight, apparently.”
Discussion between the two sides took place from there, and by 4:30 PM, the county, and the company were presenting a united front in reopening the hospital.
Delivering an eleventh-hour bombshell to county representatives during a closed session meeting today, American Specialty HealthCare informed County Counsel Marcos Kropf and County CAO Wendy Tyler that they would not be re-opening the hospital in Colusa.
“It’s a gut punch. My stomach is upset like crazy right now,” said Supervisor John Loudon, who was the county liaison for the hospital and was closely involved in the effort to reopen it. “I just drove by there about a half hour ago, and there were still workers just getting cleaned up getting ready to go home for the day. It just really boggles my mind.”
Loudon continued: “It’s just unbelievable to me that they would just up and walk away from it, but we’ve been instructed not to comment at all. Any inquests or information has to come through Marcos (Kropf), because there’s going to be a lot of fall-out about this. There’s a lot of issues out there… There’s just so many open-ended questions out there that come to mind.”
Speaking over the phone on Tuesday evening, Kropf explained there was little the county could do from a legal standpoint to force the hospital to open.
“We will be seeking our rent that has not been paid, which was the $2,000 per month,” Kropf said.
He added that American Specialty HealthCare would be free to take any equipment that they had installed at the new facility that was not a fixture or bolted down.
“We will be taking the property with any other improvements that they have made to the facility,” Kropf said, adding that the goal was to take possession of the facility immediately.
“I’m anticipating probably within the next two weeks we’ll have full possession of that property – that’s my anticipation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors will be considering their options moving forward.
“I know that the board – I can’t talk about what happened in closed session, but the board is aware of this. Once we get possession of the facility, I think there will be some discussion about how we’re going to move forward on this. I can’t say exactly when it will be, but I expect it will be coming up,” Kropf said.
Statement from the County
In November 2016, following the bankruptcy of the Colusa Regional Medical Center – the single hospital in Colusa County providing vital healthcare to the community – American Specialty HealthCare signed a lease with the County to begin the process of reopening the hospital. The County was hopeful, based on American Specialty’s assurances and promises, that within a matter of months the County would have a functioning hospital once again
Nevertheless, shortly after American Specialty took possession of the hospital, it failed to live up to its contractual obligations and defaulted when it refused to pay the agreed upon nominal rent of $2,000 per month. As an acknowledgment of American Specialty’s investment in the facility and community, and in an effort to facilitate the successful reopening of the hospital, the County temporarily deferred collection of the rent and offered assistance in seeking critical licensing designations.
Despite that effort, and American Specialty’s continued representations and promises to the community that the hospital would be reopened shortly, Dr. Gurpreet Singh, the Chairman of the Board for American Specialty, recently informed the County that it is abandoning the hospital and will not devote the necessary financial resources to make it a success.
The County is saddened and disappointed by American Specialty’s refusal to follow through on its promises and representations, or meet its contractual obligations. In response, the County will take the hospital back as provided for under the lease and begin the process of evaluating what it can do to bring needed hospital services to the residents of Colusa County. ■