A new community survey shows that Punjabi Sikh residents and farmworkers from indigenous backgrounds are particularly affected by the closure of the Madera Community Hospital, advocates say.
After years of financial struggles, the 106-bed hospital and its three clinics shut down completely in early January, stunning a primarily Latino and low-income community that relied on the hospital’s services. The mostly rural, agricultural county no longer has an emergency room, and residents have been forced to travel longer distances to seek both emergency and preventative care.
On Thursday, two Central Valley nonprofits warned the months without a hospital may be hitting some of the region’s most vulnerable residents harder than many realized — especially if those residents already struggled with healthcare access due to language barriers.
Representatives from the Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities, a nonprofit working with indigenous farmworkers in the Central Valley and the Central Coast, and the Jakara Movement, a Central Valley organization that works with Punjabi Sikh residents, said more than 90% of the 300 Madera County residents they interviewed were affected by the hospital’s closure.
In other survey results:
- More than 60% have had to travel to community medical centers in Fresno County to get healthcare;
- About 15% didn’t know where to go for healthcare or emergency services;
- More than 60% of indigenous farmworkers said they were not informed about the hospital closure;
- Nearly 80% of Punjabi Sikh residents said they were “very concerned’ about the effects of the hospital’s closure on their health and their family’s health;
- More than 52% of the farmworkers said they didn’t have a reliable way to travel to the next closest hospital.
Community health care workers who conducted the surveys said some residents told of waiting as long as eight hours a county away in overcrowded emergency rooms, struggling to take time off from work to make it to appointments, and arriving at the Madera hospital with an injury only to learn it was closed.
Local leaders spoke in favor of Assembly Bill 112, which would assist smaller hospitals in financial trouble, and urged the state to take action to reopen the Madera hospital as quickly as possible. They also called for the establishment of a state task force to not just investigate the rural hospital crisis, but also incorporate the voices of those most impacted.
“If the state is going to provide the public funds to save the hospital, then the most marginalized communities need to have a place at the table,” said Naindeep Singh, the Jakara Movement’s executive director.
About the Author
Nicole Foy is the Central Valley reporter for the California Divide team. She returned home to the Central Valley in 2022 after several years as an investigative reporter in Texas and Idaho, focusing on Latino communities, agriculture, and inequity.
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