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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
Fisher Forde Media 

Healthcare district, Guild struggle to define roles

The Forde Files No. 183


January 19, 2019

Tina Fisher Cunningham

The building, outbuildings and parking lot at 101 West E Street (Green and F) is the location of the Guild Thrift Shop.

The volunteer organization that helped sustain the old Tehachapi Hospital by purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical equipment since 1975 is redefining its relationship to the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District (TVHD).

The Guild of Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District, also known as the Hospital Guild, historically has provided funds for hospital equipment by making donations to the healthcare district (the hospital owner), which in turn purchased the equipment. In a recent gift, the Guild provided more than $500,000 to equip the surgery rooms at the new hospital.

Now Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley operates the new hospital on a 30-year lease from the district, which -- relieved of the responsibility of operating a hospital -- is exploring new ways to serve community healthcare needs.

The Guild has indicated it will be working directly with Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley to pay for medical equipment. Under its incorporation documents, Guild President Jane Welson said, the Guild will be able to donate to the district's future community health programs only if medical equipment is involved.

"We were set up to buy medical equipment," Weldon said. "TVHD doesn't have anything medical going on."

Depending on community input, the district's new mission could include drug abuse education, domestic violence resources and day care for children, for special needs and the elderly and disaster preparedness. The state of California gives healthcare districts leeway in defining their roles in the community.

With volunteers and two paid employees, the Guild operates the thrift shop at 101 West E Street. The healthcare district owns the building, outbuilding and parking lot, and pays for maintenance, insurance and utilities. During the 2016 negotiations between the healthcare district and Adventist, the Guild building was a special carve-out from a deal that leased the old hospital and all the other district properties on the 100 block of E Street to Adventist. At that time, the healthcare district board gave the Guild a 10-year renewable lease for $1 a year. The Guild reportedly earns around $10,000 a month recycling and selling used clothing and goods.

"The leadership of the Guild, in some form or manner, notified TVHD they were only going to use their resources for equipment at the new hospital, with nothing to TVHD," district board President Mike Nixon said. "The Guild has decided they do not want to go through TVHD. They only want to talk to Adventist."

In an effort to work out what the partnership between the long-term allies will look like in the future, the district sent a standard "lease term sheet" to the Guild suggesting terms of a commercial lease. The letter, which was sent Jan. 11, was not a demand for rent nor was it a contract. The suggested base rent was $3,000 a month for five years with a five-year option to renew.

"That letter shook everybody up," Weldon said, and the amount of rent would make it hard for the shop to stay in business. It was written "prematurely," she said.

Seven Guild members appeared at the Jan. 15, 2019 healthcare district board meeting to protest the letter. Nixon diffused the Guild's anxiety, saying that the term sheet was not relevant because the board had not acted on it, and they should just throw it away. The board assured the Guild that they would honor the $1-a-year rental agreement.

"We're very grateful they chose to honor the lease," Weldon said.

District counsel Scott Nave provided the following statement to Forde Files:

"The District and Guild have had a long and very productive relationship and are working out what that relationship will look like going forward. Currently, the agreement (from 2016) with the Guild is it leases the thrift shop from the District for $1.00/year for a 10-year period. I think that agreement will stay in place while the two figure out whether and how to continue benefitting the community together in the future."

The Guild's bylaws in its handbook of 2017 states that in addition to buying medical equipment, the Guild exists "to educate the community regarding the services offered at TVHD; To assist in providing health services to the general community..."

Tina Fisher Cunningham

"We couldn't do any education," Weldon said, but the Guild could buy medical equipment for the district if needed. The district, however, is prohibited by its agreement with Adventist from operating medical facilities or clinics.

"You can't get a building for free and not do anything for the district," Nixon said.

The district is hopeful the parties will come to an agreeable arrangement.

"We need to have a discussion to figure out what the relationship is [between the district and the Guild] – what we can and can't do legally," district Manager Caroline Wasielewski Wasielewski said. "The Guild has to let us know what they want."

"We have a good relationship with TVHD and a good relationship with Adventist," Weldon said. "We need to focus on that. We want everyone in the community to recognize what we are trying to accomplish."


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