Before a crowd of about 50 at last week's Town Hall meeting, Tom Wheeler announced that Oakhurst's Urgent Care was up for sale, and that two organizations were bidding, one of which is Adventist Health.
"Adventist Health has the reputation of reorganizing facilities into clinics, similar to Camerena, which would mean no emergency services in the Mountain Area," Wheeler added.
According to Wheeler, Adventist is not local, doesn't deal with the non-insured, and, in the past, has "stolen" doctors from organizations they purchase, and then they close the facility. Others offer stories with different and happier endings saying that the purchase of small rural facilities by Adventist have resulted in better medical facilities.
Todd Miller, Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce president, stood to advise that the chamber is taking this on as major project, and that the chamber board is being pro-active in trying to get an appointment with Community Medical Centers CEO Craig Castro in an effort to squelch rumors and to see what's really going on.
The rumors not only surround the sale of Urgent Care, but the rumored closing date of Feb. 1, as well.
"Community is still in the process of considering options to more efficiently run the Oakhurst Community Medical Center and strengthen its future viability," Michelle VonTersch, director of communications for Community Medical Centers, said. "This involves looking at many complex factors, including a possible transition of operations to another healthcare provider. However, no final decisions have been made at this time. Therefore, the information you have regarding the close of a sale on Feb. 1 is inaccurate."
Last November, Dr. Joel Figatner expressed concerns over the future of the Oakhurst Community Medical Center, commonly known as Urgent Care. He referred to it as a huge step backwards, when it comes to emergency services, should hours continue to be cut and reduced staff not be replaced.
Figatner urged community residents to vocalize how vital Urgent Care is to the Mountain Area by sending letters to Castro of Community Medical Center, which owns and operates the Oakhurst facility. Castro responded in a form letter, expressing an understanding how important the health center is in Oakhurst, while acknowledging the facility has faced challenges with increasing operational costs, diminishing reimbursements rates and physician staffing.
According to VonTersch at the time, they were in the process of adding staff to the Oakhurst facility, and once the additional staff were in place, reopening on Wednesdays.
In a letter to the editor (Jan. 9 Sierra Star), VonTersch said there were no plans to close the Oakhurst Community Health Center, and that the entire region, not just Oakhurst, faced chronic physician shortages.
"These are just rumors right now," Miller admitted. "Several people have come to me telling me that it's sold, but we really have no hard facts." Miller said these rumors have prompted the chamber's drafting of and sending a letter requesting a meeting with Castro.
"This is the most important issue facing our community at this moment," Miller reiterated. "It affects you, your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, your friends and neighbors. We want everyone down there to know that we care up here."
The Chamber of Commerce urges every organization and every individual to write a letter to Community Medical Centers, Inc., to express the concerns over the future of Urgent Care. Letters can be sent to: Craig Castro, CEO, Clovis Community Center, P.O. Box 1232, Fresno, Calif. 93715; and to CMC Board of Trustees, c/o Juanita Hernandez, at the same mailing address.
Other Town Hall items:
The bridge improvements at 425B in Oakhurst will not impede traffic, with the road open at all times during construction process.
Measure T revenues will fund a proposed project the Oakhurst midtown connector which would tie Highway 41 near the Visitor's Center to Indian Springs Road and School Road (427). It would be a second route to schools, and roundabouts may be utilized due to lower costs in both construction and maintenance. Bike lanes and sidewalks are also a possibility. This project is expected to begin 2018, or sooner.
Electrical cable charging stations for electric vehicles has been installed at the Amtrak Station in Madera. Funding to improve air quality was used for this project.
Sheriff John Anderson reported that in 2013, crime was down for the fourth consecutive year, calling Madera County, one of the safest counties in California. "We don't have a crime problem here," he said, "we have a drug problem here because of medical marijuana." He mentioned there is the possibility of going to the Board of Supervisors to request that Madera County become a no-grow county. Anderson also reported there have been no meth-labs in the county for the past 2-3 years.
A new hotel has been approved along Highway 41 in Oakhurst; two others are pending approval. The hotels are Holiday Inn Express, Fairfield Inn and Hampton Inn. All will have 108 rooms and be four-stories high.
Audience questioned these projects because of the drought and low-water-table levels. According to the Planning department representative, sewer and water are part of the approval process, and new construction is exponentially more efficient now because it has to be. These hotels will be required to have water-efficient plumbing, as well as water-efficient landscaping.
It was also mentioned that because we're in our third straight drought year, there is the possibility that the Board of Supervisors would set a moratorium on any new building in the area.
Madera County Health Services, located on Crane Valley Road (426) in Oakhurst will move to the empty Miller's Sporting Goods Store on Highway 41, next to the Department of Social Services.
Ahwahnee Park will open later this year. There are walking and riding trails, and soccer fields already in place. The well for the Eastern Madera County SPCA facility is close to being drilled.
A large donation was made by Red Arnold's family for the specific purpose of neutering and spaying Madera County cats and dogs. Vouchers can be obtained at the Cat's Meow in Oakhurst.