(Editor’s note: Reprinted with the permission of Fresnoland.)
Madera residents from Punjabi Sikh and Indigenous migrant farmworker communities have been heavily impacted by the Madera hospital closure, according to results from surveys conducted by two community-based organizations.
The surveys had about 300 respondents and came out of a partnership between Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), which serves Indigenous migrant farmworkers, and the Jakara Movement, which serves the Punjabi Sikh community.
“All of the surveys were conducted in a language other than English,” said CBDIO’s executive director, Sarait Martinez. “I think that is the importance of our survey, because it is beyond the political conversations and many times our voices are not included in those conversations.”
The survey results reveal the following:
- Almost 91% of survey respondents indicated the Madera hospital closure had a direct impact on them.
- About 80% of all respondents said they were “highly concerned” about the closure’s impact on their health and family.
- More than three-quarters of all survey respondents said other hospitals are too far away, they’ve experienced longer wait times if they do get to a hospital in a neighboring county and they’ve experienced limited access to preventive and diagnostic health exams locally in Madera.
Of the 151 Indigenous migrant farmworkers surveyed, more than 60% said they did not even know about the Madera hospital closure, and just above half said they do not have reliable transportation to access medical care in a neighboring county—demonstrating the compounding impacts of shrinking health infrastructure, language barriers and lack of affordable transportation options.
Of all survey respondents, about 17% said they didn’t know where to go in the case of a medical emergency. For those who said they have accessed care at a hospital outside the county, a majority of respondents said they received emergency services, specialty care, primary care and even got diagnosed for illnesses.
Naindeep Singh, the Jakara Movement’s executive director, said both community-based organizations are hoping Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign AB/SB 112, a bill that would create a loan program for distressed nonprofit and public hospitals and potentially help with reviving the Madera hospital.
He added that community voices, including those from Punjabi Sikh and Indigenous migrant farmworker communities, need to be included in ongoing conversations about healthcare in Madera and the future of the hospital.
“What we have is actually an opportunity to bring communities that have been traditionally shut out to actually come together and make sure that we’re raising our voices as a united Madera,” Singh said.
He also called for a task force to be convened to study the deeper issues impacting health access in rural communities and hospitals across the state—an effort that he said should go beyond the popular discussion around Medi-Cal reimbursements.
Mohammad Ashraf, a cadiologist whose office sits across from the dormant Madera Community Hospital, spoke at a recent press conference, emphasizing the need for Madera residents to sound the alarm on health infrastructure needs in the county. That also extends to making sure that Newsom signs AB/SB 112. (Editor’s note: AB/SB 112 was signed into law by Gov. Newsom on May 15.)
“This is really bad and we can do something about it if we work together,” Ashraf said. “The government will help, but government is slow. They take their time, but it’s our problem, it’s our issue.”