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Assemblymember Gives Update on Imperial Valley Medical District

-Editorial

Highlighting the importance of moving forward with the creation of a new medical hospital district, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia held a press conference to give an update about where the Assembly Bill 918 legislation is going and to dispel false information. 

“We want to save lives. We want to make sure our two hospitals don’t shut down since we know they are in financial distress,” Garcia said. He added the COVID pandemic showed how important is to have a strong medical system that is at par to save lives. 

Access to healthcare in Imperial County is at serious risk and only two hospitals serve the entirety of the county. El Centro Regional Medical Center is on the verge of financial collapse. The Pioneers Memorial Hospital will be unable to retrofit due to escalating costs for retrofitting, their recent credit downgrade, and reports from engineers of the requirement for a complete physical restructure of the main hospital building and administrative wing. 

“For these reasons, we must create a countywide healthcare district in which we can integrate ECRMC and stabilize healthcare in one of the state’s most underserved communities,” Garcia said. 

However, Pioneers Memorial still opposes AB 918. Garcia said there have been dozens of meetings with Pioneers representatives and listening to their concerns that include the transfer of contracts. 

“That’s why we extended the dissolution of the healthcare district until 2025 so they can deal with the transfer of contracts so there is no interruption of services,” Garcia said. 

Garcia argued that the establishment of a countywide healthcare district will result in multi-millions of dollars in savings to the Imperial Valley Healthcare District through the coordination of medical services, combined economies of scale of the prior healthcare districts including, having a single governing body and hospital administration, clinical integration, unified contracting and supplies management and an integrated medical system. At the same time, people can expect these hospitals to qualify as the sole community hospital across two campuses, which would trigger an increase in Medicare reimbursement of several million dollars per year. This, Garcia said, will avoid the increase of taxes for Imperial Valley residents. 

How will things work?

The board must hold a minimum of three public meetings to inform the public about the district’s establishment, recommended funding source mechanism, and the acquisition of the medical center.

The board of directors shall work with LAFCO to divide the district into voting zones and members of the board will be elected by district after January 1, 2024.

The initial board, in collaboration with the Imperial County LAFCO, recommends a permanent funding source mechanism, which is then presented to and approved by voters through a ballot measure.

Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District will be dissolved, and their assets and responsibilities will be transferred to the Imperial Valley Healthcare District by January 1, 2025.

The initial board of directors is composed of 2 members from the Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District, 2 members from the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District, 2 members from the City of El Centro (who are not City of El Centro employees, elected officials of the City, or employees or board members of ECRMC), and 1 member from the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

The board is required to enter negotiations to acquire the El Centro Regional Medical Center and finalize the terms of acquisition by November 5, 2024, if the financial feasibility studies determine that is financially viable.

The board must hold a minimum of three public meetings to inform the public about the district’s establishment, recommended funding source mechanism, and the acquisition of the medical center.

The board of directors shall work with LAFCO to divide the district into voting zones and members of the board will be elected by district after January 1, 2024.

The initial board, in collaboration with the Imperial County LAFCO, recommends a permanent funding source mechanism, which is then presented to and approved by voters through a ballot measure. 

Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District will be dissolved, and their assets and responsibilities will be transferred to the Imperial Valley Healthcare District by January 1, 2025.

The Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District is to hold a temporary administrative role to IVHD which includes assistance in scheduling board and public meetings as well as any other administrative tasks associated with establishing a new healthcare district.

If El Centro Regional Medical Center is acquired by IVHD, the board of directors shall disclose the terms of the acquisition to the public and present a financial plan to finance the acquisition and ongoing operations of hospitals in the district.

The bill is considered an urgent statute due to the imminent financial collapse of the El Centro Regional Medical Center, aiming to stabilize access to healthcare services promptly.

The bill takes effect immediately upon enactment to address the urgent need for stabilizing access to healthcare services in the region.

 

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