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Fresno County officials lift local hospital emergency, overcrowding crisis far from over

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Fresno County Board of Supervisors discuss vote to end hospital emergency declaration, Feb. 7, 2023.

FRESNO, Calif. — The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to end a local hospital emergency that was first declared in January.

But the action doesn’t mean that the capacity problem at local hospitals that spurred the emergency is over, says David Luchini, director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

Officials from Fresno County, Saint Agnes Medical Center and Community Health System issued a joint statement which said the emergency proclamation also helped serve its purpose to alert state and federal officials of the local hospital problems.

The emergency was declared Jan. 3 when lack of bed capacity became a huge concern following the complete closure of Madera Community Hospital and its clinics. It was also during a surge in COVID-19, flu and RSV cases that flooded hospitals.

Local healthcare officials and county supervisors highlighted the need for more help from state and federal authorities.

The statement from the officials pointed to a “hospital crisis” in Fresno County and called for a review of reimbursement rates to “ensure a sustainable business model for local hospitals, especially in areas with high poverty.” The statement also addressed the cost of labor and supplies that have skyrocketed and which are not adequately covered by government funded Medi-Cal and Medicare.

Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau called attention to a wider community effect of hospital costs.

“We just have a lot of poor folks that live in our communities and they need a lot of support when they go to the hospital. And the reimbursements are not there to make it economically affordable for them [hospitals] to continue to do business,” Brandau said.

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Dr. Danielle Campagne, emergency room department chief at Community Regional Medical Center addresses supervisors with hospital CEO, Robyn Gonzales.

Supervisor Buddy Mendes called the issue a chronic problem that continues to get worse. The sentiment was echoed by Dr. Danielle Campagne, who is emergency room department chief at Community Regional Medical Center.

Seeing the way CRMC absorbed an influx of patients following the closure of the hospital in Madera, Campagne pointed to a looming concern south of Fresno – financial struggles at Kaweah Health Medical Center.

“We need to keep Kaweah alive so it doesn’t burden Fresno County,” Campagne said. “If that hospital falls, I think we all could fall.”

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with experience in radio, television and digital production. She is a 2022 National Edward R. Murrow Award winner. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.