By Johanna Torres
The Madera Community Hospital (MCH) announced its closure less than a week before officially closing last year, leaving Maderans with many questions and concerns. As the MCH slowly and reluctantly released information in the past two months, the Madera Coalition for Community Justice (MCCJ) organized a town hall on March 2.
More than 250 residents attended the town hall in person and an estimated 75 via Zoom. State, county and city representatives participated in a panel with MCH board members and other local health service providers. MCH’s CEO, who is still employed by MCH, was invited but did not attend. Residents submitted a variety of questions as to why the closure was so abrupt.
Stell Manfredi, a MCH board member who participated on the panel, acknowledged that the MCH leadership was aware of the inevitable closure for more than two years. They focused their efforts on securing an acquisition by the Saint Agnes Medical Center, which fell through due to the financial issues MCH faced, Manfredi referenced.
One of the MCH’s outstanding debts is $2 million owed to staff that were laid off. Manfredi stated that the alternative to paying staff what they are legally owed is losing the MCH property and buildings. It’s his opinion that hospitals throughout the state will begin to face similar financial issues.
Jessica, a local resident who attended the town hall, expressed concern with Manfredi’s comments. She visited the MCH emergency room multiple times before its closure. She was told they would refer her to a specialist each visit, but she was not referred until the hospital closed. She cannot be seen by a specialist until later this year due to the number of referrals the specialist received.
“They (MCH) failed Madera. They knew what was going to happen and kept it a secret.
“Meanwhile, patients with serious health issues like me were neglected. Why didn’t they refer us well in advance of closing?
“I hope other hospitals treat their patients with more respect if they, too, have to close.”
Maderans are encouraged to stay civically engaged, especially now that our health depends on it. The Madera City Council, the Madera Unified School District and the Madera County Board of Supervisor meetings are all live-streamed. Consider contacting each agency for further information about their public meetings.