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Nurses from Desert Regional Medical Center protest revised lease proposal from Tenet Healthcare, which passed with a unanimous vote

The Desert Healthcare District Board of Directors voted unanimously to move a new lease proposal forward tonight. It comes after several community feedback meetings over the past few months, as well as some push-back from nurses on the hospital's current operator, Tenet Healthcare.

The new proposal was heard by both the Board and several dozen nurses who protested ahead of Tuesday's 5:00 p.m. meeting.

"I've been coming to almost every board meeting to petition the board members to not sell Desert Regional Medical Center to tenant health care," said Deborah Edwards, a NICU Nurse with Desert Regional Medical Center. She was one of dozens of nurses who protested the proposal around 4:45 p.m., right before the beginning of the meeting.

"Tenet Healthcare has owned or leased our hospital for almost 27-years, they have a 30 year lease right now, and they have mismanaged, and understaffed the hospital. They haven't kept it up. They need better regulation. So we're basically petitioning to the committee to please not sell our hospital, our community hospital," said Edwards.

Many of the nurses, like Edwards and Cyd Greenhorn, a RN in the ICU, told News Channel Three they wanted better working conditions.

"Desert Regional or Tenet has been able to get waivers from California Department of Public Health that allows for a three to one ratio, meaning three babies to one," said Edwards. "We want the hospital to be kept up better, better maintenance, we have a lot of broken machinery that doesn't get replaced right away, it takes a long time to replace it.”

"Patients deserve a lot of care," said Greenhorn. "And when a entity like Tenet Healthcare or any other company takes it, they nickel and dime and you can't do that. Health care is not something you can just nickel and dime. You have to give everything."

Tenet healthcare is proposing to provide the following additions to the prior proposal from September 2023:

  • Provides $650 million over 30 years to the Desert Healthcare District.
  • Increases the upfront payment by Tenet from $75 million to $100 million, and provides an accelerated payment schedule, so that the District receives the majority of payments during the first 19 years of the term.
  • Specifically commits to renovation and expansion of the Emergency Department and Admitting areas at JFK Memorial Hospital at an estimated cost of approximately $60 million.
  • Ensures that any future modification of Desert Regional Medical Center would be designed to accommodate the current capacity.

Linda Evans, the Chief Strategy Officer for the Desert Care Network also serves as the Mayor of La Quinta. She says the Public Information Forums helped them get feedback from committee members.

"Those meetings really helped us understand the support that we have," said Evans. "It's important that we understand some areas of interest, for example, the East Valley investments. We do care for the underserved and care for 60% of the medical patients in this valley. So we take everyone all the time, and people want to continue to know that we're going to expand and invest continue to do that through the next term."

Evans says the past speaks for itself.

"We have established Desert Care Network, which is an inseparable system between Desert Regional level one trauma, JFK Memorial level four trauma, and Hi-Desert Medical Center and Joshua Tree," said Evans. "And this inseparable network has made advancements, has made investments, and we want to continue to do that.”

During Tuesday's vote, several members of the public took the chance to speak during a public comment section, voicing their approval or opposition. There was a brief ten minute break before the final vote took place. Ultimately, the meeting wrapped up around 9:00 p.m. with a unanimous vote to move forward.

"We've had a 27-year history in this community, and we really feel that we've added a lot of high end services," said Michelle Finney, CEO of Desert Regional Medical Center and CEO of Desert Care Network after the vote. "Most recently, we just secured our joint commission accreditation, advanced accreditation of our Perinatal Services, and we've elevated Trauma Services, neuroscience services. It's just very exciting. You have a lot of committed individuals that are at Desert Regional and they really have a passion for serving this community. So it's very fulfilling that they will have that continued opportunity."

Linda Evans also agrees.

"When you look at the longevity of Tenet Healthcare in this valley, which started in '79, when we acquired JFK, and then Desert Regional in 1997, and Hi-Desert Medical Center in 2015, you can tell we're committed," said Evans. "We're committed to safe patient care. We're committed to the community. We're committed to bringing physicians, providing jobs, and making sure that our patients get excellent care while they're here and staying within our care."

Tuesday's vote means the Tenet Healthcare proposal moves into the next stages, which would be the development of a definitive agreement, and then a contract, and eventually voters will have the final say.

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Tori King


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