Mark Twain Medical Center, our county’s only hospital, is undeniably one of our community’s strongest assets and a crucial part of our economy. Thanks to our community’s investment in our hospital and health care services since 1946, we have earned the distinction as home to one of the best rural hospitals in California and created employment opportunities for Calaveras County.
As we think about our history and look to our future, it is important that Calaveras residents understand that Mark Twain Medical Center’s success belongs to us. As our community considers options to deliver healthcare needs for now and for the future, we can do so with full confidence in the stewardship of the Mark Twain Health Care District Board selected by Calaveras voters.
Throughout our history, the Health Care District has successfully navigated twists, turns and bumps in the health care landscape with the input of local residents. Thirty years ago, the health care industry was failing and drastic measures were needed. At that time, creating a new hospital corporation with St. Joseph’s of Stockton, then an independent hospital provider, was the right choice to preserve access to care in our uniquely situated community. St. Joseph’s affiliation with Catholic Healthcare West – now Dignity Health – did not and does not change the fact that Calaveras residents own the hospital.
Today we are at another crossroads for the future of health care both locally and nationally. In the last five years, over 80 rural hospitals have closed nationwide and another 670 are projected to shutter.
Dignity Health’s contract to operate the Medical Center is set to expire in 2019, and the Mark Twain Health Care District is carefully considering all the options to preserve and improve health care in Calaveras with voters being a part of this process.
The district could opt for a new agreement with Dignity Health or another affiliate. The District could also decide to run the hospital independently or with a management services agreement. Town halls and Health Care District board meetings with public comment will precede any decision the District makes.
Our Mark Twain Health Care District is directly accountable to the people of our county. For example, it is our community that has enabled the district to embark on building a new clinic in Valley Springs, leveraging a $7 million federal USDA investment for the long-term benefit of our community health and our economy.
The Mark Twain Health Care District Board wants to engage Calaveras County residents in decisions about the future of our healthcare. Residents can visit marktwainhealthdistrict.org or attend a public meeting, to learn more about how the district is working to make health accessible and excel for everyone in Calaveras.
When our community faced healthcare challenges in the past, it was our residents, and our community organizations that contributed financial support and investment in our facilities over the last 70 years. We now have a state-of-the-art hospital with fully equipped operating rooms, an emergency room, and intensive care units.
From Calaveras’ roots in prospecting and mining, our community has long been proud to carve our own path from a tough landscape. Together, we will do what it takes to see to the health of our future.
Merita Callaway is a former Calaveras County Supervisor.