Settlement paves the way for reopening of Tulare Regional Medical Center

Tulare Regional Medical Center settled a lawsuit last month against the Tulare Local Healthcare District (TLHD) board that paves the way for the reopening of the hospital and the takeover of its management by Adventist Health.

The lawsuit stems from a scathing California Board of Public Health inspection in 2015. Shortly after the inspection, in January 2016, the board summarily fired all 135 of the hospital medical staff claiming that they believed that the hospital would be closed if they did not take the action. However, relations between the board and the staff had been sour for some time and the board adopted the action in a closed door “secret” meeting, claimed the staff in their lawsuit.

After firing the medical staff, the board brought in a new association to staff the hospital, Health Care Conglomerate Associates (HCCA), which included a member of the board, Dr. Parmod Kumar, his wife, and other new staff members. The previous medical staff charged that the firing and hiring of the group including Kumer was related to disciplinary actions the Medical Executive Committee had taken against Kumer who was facing suspension of his privileges. The hospital continued to operate for a period of time during the controversy, but was forced to close in October 2017, after filing for bankruptcy.

June 27th the TLHD board voted to enter into a contract with Adventist Health to reopen the beleaguered hospital by fall. The settlement reached at the end of June fully reinstates the medical staff and dissolves the group that the board had formed as its replacement. With the doctors back, Adventist is one step closer to meeting the October reopening promise.

The Tulare Regional Medical Center Staff was supported by the California Medical Association in the lawsuit, who filed a brief in support and provided legal resources. In a statement, CMA President Theodore M. Mazer, M.D., praised the settlement and what it means for California physicians.

“The settlement is a significant victory in protecting the ability of doctors, individually and through their medical staffs, to care for patients in Tulare County. This settlement brings closure to a long legal fight over the improper interference into the physician-patient relationship and the autonomy of a medical staff’s responsibility for medical decision making and peer review. It sends an important message well beyond Tulare, but most importantly, it allows for the Tulare Regional Medical Center to begin the process of reopening its doors to the patients of Tulare County, who have suffered tremendously from its closure.”