AG delegate gets public input on VVCH sale
August 03, 2012 5:14 PM
Tomoya Shimura, Staff Writer
VICTORVILLE • The Attorney General’s delegate returned for the third time in two years Friday to get public input on the new ownership of Victor Valley Community Hospital — a divisive issue that’s split the desert community.
Deputy Attorney General Wendi Horwitz heard from 31 doctors, hospital administrators, politicians and community leaders on whether her boss should approve the sale of the nonprofit hospital to Riverside-based KPC Group.
Horwitz said Attorney General Kamala Harris will post her decision on her website by Aug. 31. But many speakers urged her to announce the decision sooner.
Whether they liked KPC or not, most asked the Attorney General to approve the deal because the Victor Valley desperately needed access to medical care, especially for the needy.
“This process in the last two years has divided this desert like I’ve never seen before,” Martha Brodie, a local advocate for seniors, said from the podium in the Victorville City Hall chamber. “And my wish, and I’m a dreamer, is to keep this hospital open.”
KPC beat out Prime Healthcare Services Foundation in an auction after VVCH declared bankruptcy in September 2010. Then-Attorney General Jerry Brown approved KPC to buy the hospital, but KPC failed to seal the deal by the deadline in May 2011.
VVCH turned to Prime, a buyer favored by the hospital administration and board. But Harris denied the proposal in September, which prompted Prime supporters to allege that the attorney general had been influenced by the Service Employees International Union.
As time and money ran out for VVCH, the hospital’s creditors decided to re-engage in talks with KPC. In June, VVCH and KPC finally agreed to a $33.8 million deal.
Harris decided to host the hearing after KPC asked her to modify the original conditions. The medical group requested that she remove conditions stating that the hospital would have to maintain $6 million emergency and blocked funds. KPC argued that the hospital needs to invest those monies immediately.
The hospital is losing an estimate of $1 million per month now, according to Steven Schwartz, bankruptcy attorney for the hospital creditors.
“We would urge the Attorney General to not wait until Aug. 31 to issue her decision so we can close the matter before Aug. 31 and preserve the cash that would be available for distribution,” Schwartz said. “It’s quite apparent this is the last opportunity that this hospital is going to have.”
Dr. Kali P. Chaudhuri, founder of KPC, attended the meeting but didn’t take the podium. He said he had a sore throat.
If the deal closes, he would focus on maintaining Medicare and Medi-Cal license, reopening gastrointestinal and catheterization laboratories and opening all 101 hospital beds, Chaudhuri said after Friday’s hearing.
“We can talk all day, but action speaks louder than words,” Chaudhuri said.
A few speakers opposed KPC’s proposal, expressing support for Prime.
Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett pointed his finger toward SEIU representatives in the audience and alleged that Harris put her political benefits ahead of the High Desert community by denying Prime’s proposal.
Tomoya Shimura may be reached at (760) 955-5368 or TShimura@VVDailyPress.com. Follow Tomoya on Facebook at facebook.com/ShimuraTomoya.
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