Santa Paula City Council To File Complaint Against Memorial Hospital To Keep It Open
In an effort to "force trustees" of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital to complete a merger with the Ventura County health system, the Santa Paula City Council on Monday voted unanimously to file a complaint with the state attorney general, the Los Angeles Times reports. The complaint would allege possible violations of the California Corporations Code, which governs not-for-profit groups, by the hospital's board of directors. Santa Paula is one of three California hospitals built solely with community donations and is the only hospital in the Santa Paula area, according to the Times. The council's action is in response to concerns that the hospital could close. City council member Mary Ann Krause said, "The hospital is a charitable asset and it appears to be in jeopardy. If the attorney general has any power to protect charitable assets, then we're asking him to step in." The council has directed the city attorney to write a formal complaint, which the council will review before submitting it to the attorney general as early as next week. If the attorney general does not intervene, the council will request the state's permission to sue the hospital board and pursue its own enforcement action to keep the hospital open (Covarrubias, Los Angeles Times, 10/22). Santa Paula Memorial announced in May that the facility's debt had reached $3.7 million, that it was having difficulty paying its $200,000 biweekly payroll and that late payments for medical supplies had led some vendors to withhold further deliveries. The hospital's board has been discussing the possible merger with Ventura County officials after the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted in June to begin the process. Ventura County officials have recommended closing the facility to resolve financial obligations, finalize negotiations and minimize risks to the community before the hospital is transferred to the county. However, discussions have stalled recently because of disagreements over provisions of a 10-year lease and the hospital's failure to provide prompt disclosure of its debts and operating costs. County officials have questioned whether the negotiations should continue, and Santa Paula Memorial has indicated it might affiliate with Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura to prevent closing (California Healthline, 10/17).
Philip Romney, chair of the hospital board, said, "I'm somewhat baffled by what they're doing," adding that the hospital board was scheduled to meet with county officials on Tuesday night for negotiations. Romney said that since January, the board has "repeatedly offered" to meet with city council members, but the offers have always been rejected, the Times reports. However, Krause said council members have asked the hospital board to meet with them, but board members said they could not do so without the county's approval (Los Angeles Times, 10/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.