March 7, 2023 — Madera County Board of Supervisors

Documented by Josef Sibala

What happened: In a split 2-2 vote, the Madera County Board of Supervisors denied moving forward with a $250,000 agreement for Kaufman, Hall & Associates to develop a report on the viability and financial trajectory of Madera Community Hospital (MCH).

Supervisors Leticia Gonzalez and Jordan Wamhoff voted to move forward with the study, while supervisors Robert Macaulay and David Rogers voted against. Supervisor Robert Poythress was absent.

Deputy County Administrative Officer Joel Bugay said the report was commissioned to evaluate any feasible and sustainable reopening scenarios for MCH and to identify the upfront and ongoing financial commitment necessary to sustain those operations.

The agreement identifies the county as a co-recipient of the study and report. It also says that the county will reimburse Kaufman Hall for services directly on behalf of MCH, he said.

The funds for the study would come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Bugay said.

County Counsel Regina Garza stated that the agreement would allow Kaufman Hall and the County to treat MCH data as confidential during the study. 

Vice Chair of MCH Board of Trustees Stell Manfredi supported the agreement.

William Pitts, a former clinician at MCH, said he opposed the agreement because Karen Paonelli was not appropriate to be selected as the CEO of the hospital.

In 2022, MCH suspended all surgical services for five to six months and could only perform emergency caesarian sections, neglecting elective procedures. He said the sterilizing equipment didn’t pass state inspection and employees reported the issue to Paonelli, but it was not addressed.

“This is an example of mismanagement and malpractice” of the equipment and operations of the hospital, he told the board.

A local surgeon said that MCH could not provide medical services every month; it costs MCH $2 million in revenue. He advocated for “objectivity” in the study and said that he hoped Supervisor Poythress would recuse himself from all items regarding the hospital.

Public Health Officer Simon Paul said that Sen. Anna Caballero has said at town hall meetings that the state needs approximately $1.5 billion by the end of December to keep hospitals from going bankrupt.

The supervisors also voted (2-2) against a business associate agreement with the hospital that would allow the Public Health Department to access its data.

Up next: The supervisors are scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. on March 14.

Support our nonprofit journalism.


Your contribution is appreciated.

The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...