Madera Co. eyes burning half its COVID relief funds as hospital closure stopgap

Along with ARPA funds, the county could explore forming a special district to revamp operations of Madera’s lone hospital.

Madera Community Hospital’s financial woes and imminent closure have put pressure on the county to step in in an attempt to save the region’s lone hospital. 

One option being considered by the Madera County Board of Supervisors is to throw $7 million of its remaining $14.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding at the problem. 

The big picture: Last month, Madera Community Hospital announced its intention to file for bankruptcy and closed down all of its emergency services. The hospital ended all remaining services last week. 

  • Madera Community Hospital previously had a deal in place with Trinity Health – the operator of Fresno’s Saint Agnes Hospital – for a merger that would save the health care provider. But conditions imposed by the California Attorney General’s Office led to Trinity Health to back out. 

What’s next: Tuesday, the board directed county staff to return at a following meeting with an item on the agenda that would allow the county to hire a consultant to study the various options to save the hospital, which would include the formation of a health care district or a communities facilities district. 

  • County staff estimates that a possible district formation would cost around $1.2 million from hiring the consultant through the required election. 

By the numbers: The $7 million in ARPA funding that could go toward the hospital would be taken from five projects that the county has already allocated funding toward: 

  • The largest amount would be $3.5 million from Projects in Disadvantaged Communities, followed by $1.5 million in small business grants and $1 million for the Preservation of Essential Services. 
  • The category for support staff would see an $850,000 hit, and the pandemic-related 311 call center would lose all of its $145,000. 

What they’re saying: “I don’t see really any end to this until the State of California and those that manage the reimbursements, Medi-Cal, have raised the reimbursements to a level that we can serve our people here,” said Supervisor Rob Poythress.

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