FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The Fresno County Board of Supervisors let the county’s hospital emergency declaration come to an end during Tuesday’s board meeting.
However, health officials and supervisors both say the issues that caused the county to enter a state of emergency are still ongoing.
“Although I am supporting removing the state of emergency, we’ve got a serious problem in our hospital systems in Fresno County and the Central Valley,” District 2 supervisor Steve Brandau said.
In the midst of a surge of flu, COVID-19, and RSV cases in January, the supervisors unanimously voted to enter a state of emergency for Fresno County’s hospitals. While the viruses we’re part of the issue, supervisors and health officials from Fresno’s Community Regional Medical Center we’re concerned about the impending closure of Madera Community Hospital, coupled with ongoing staffing and overcrowding issues at CRMC. They had hoped the emergency declaration would draw attention from state and federal leaders.
Director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health David Luchini told the supervisors even with the spread of those viruses slowing down, hospitals in Fresno County are still full.
“We’ve got a lot of health issues in this community and it puts a lot of pressure on these hospitals, and it’s not gonna go away. I think this emergency declaration assisted us in getting the attention of the state. There’s a lot of attention at the state level about what’s going on in this region, especially when they hear from the hospitals about the reimbursement rates,” Luchini said.
Luchini also said compared to other regions in California, more patients in Fresno County rely on Medicare or Medi-Cal, rather than private insurance companies. Private companies pay hospitals higher rates, so when patients aren’t privately insured, hospitals lose money.
Those financial issues are valley wide. A few months ago representatives from Kaweah Health in Tulare County reached out to state officials notifying them of their own money problems. And in the weeks since the emergency declaration was put in place, Madera County’s Madera Community Hospital officially shut down in January with little notice. That closure brought even more patients to the shrinking number of available beds in Fresno County.
“Today in the hospital almost half of our nurses are operating at what we call crisis ratios,” Chief Operating Officer for CRMC Robyn Gonzales said.
The supervisors did ultimately allow the declaration to expire, saying state leaders are taking notice. CRMC’s Dr. Danielle Campagne said she agrees, the declaration had to end eventually, but she wants the public to know, the issues are still there.
“If you continue the declaration for a year or two years, it’s not going to change, but we do have this crisis that’s continuing. I kind of feel like we’re this pot of water boiling, and every once in a while we boil over, and right now it’s just boiling,” she said.
In just a few weeks at the end of February, the California state health emergency concerning COVID-19 is set to end. CRMC warns this will only make the issues they’re experiencing now worse. Gonzales said without the state emergency they’ll have fewer resources from the state and less flexibility, such as no longer being able to use nurses with out-of-state licenses, and having to do away with using tents for patient surges.