Originally published By Luis Hernandez, Visalia Times-Delta Nov. 8, 2018
One measure on Tuesday’s ballot made history for Tulare.
While no one could have predicted the outcome, it wasn’t even close.
Measure H won big Tuesday night with 88 percent of the vote.
The measure, which sought Tulare hospital district residents’ approval for the lease agreement between the hospital board and Adventist Health, had the highest approval among all other local measures and races.
In total, Measure H netted 8,216 votes of the 9,326 cast. That’s nearly 13 times more votes than the city council race in the same city.
Adventist Health, which has been running the hospital for about three weeks, will remain Tulare Regional Medical Center’s administrator. They will take over officially in January, serving the first of a five-year stint.
“We are incredibly happy that the vote was such a positive affirmation of all the hard work that this team and community poured into reopening the hospital,” said Randy Dodd, president of the Tulare hospital. “We are eager now to recruit additional physicians and team members and expand services.”
Voter approval was needed because the hospital receives public money.
Kevin Northcraft, Tulare hospital board president, said Measure H support was historic and will help the once-shuttered hospital regain trust within the community.
“We may have to go back in the history books to find something that got 88 percent,” he said. “The electorate has exceeded every estimate to support the recovery. The recent election, with almost nine of every 10 voters agreeing to move forward with Adventist, is a great consensus, almost unheard of in local politics. This community is incredible.”
The Measure H win also shows a shift in the community, Northcraft said.
“At some point, it was said the hospital was dividing our community,” he said. “Now, it’s unifying our community.”
Throughout the efforts to reopen the hospital, board members and Adventist Health campaigned for Measure H. Northcraft said the message to the voters was straightforward and the result is noteworthy.
“The goal was to bring a competent, caring administrator the hospital deserved,” he said.
As part of an agreement to open the hospital, Adventist Health fronted a $10 million loan to finance improvement projects needed to get state health officials to approve reopening.
The hospital opened two weeks shy of the one year mark.
Since the hospital reopened, more than 1,500 people have been served by the hospital’s emergency department.
Shirley Rybnikar, who signed an argument opposing Measure H, had no comment on Wednesday. Reginald Snead, who also opposed Measure H, didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Others who spoke out against Measure H said it was less about the hospital reopening and more about choosing an organization other than Adventist. Adventist is a faith-based healthcare provider, which worried some residents.
Despite the opposition, Northcraft said the hospital’s re-opening and Tuesday’s election result show what community members can accomplish.
“After the great threat to our quality of life, Tulare proved it has the strength to not only get back our hospital but give it a future better than we ever envisioned,” he said. “The strength of this community is phenomenal.”