The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Madera County Loses Its Only Hospital

Jul 23, 2023

Madera Community Hospital, the only general hospital in Madera County in central California, closed its doors at the beginning of the year.

Madera Community Hospital was absolutely vital for taking care of the health care needs of the 160,000 people who live there. In the first nine months of 2022 alone, the hospital recorded 23,783 emergency room visits.

The hospital was also an important lifeline for the county’s low-income residents in other ways. Most of the county’s public health programs were linked to the hospital. For example, Madera Community signed up patients for Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid, the federal health insurance for the poor), and coordinated services with community clinics.

Now, with the closure of Madera Community, to get those services, people will have to drive long distances, sometimes hours.

A big part of the workforce in Madera County is very poor. But those workers produce enormous wealth. Madera County is part of California’s San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, generating sales of 35 billion dollars. It is also a major producer of oil and natural gas.

But agriculture and oil wells also produce high levels of particulate pollution—a source of respiratory illness, heart disease and cancer. The rate of asthma among children in the San Joaquin Valley, for example, is twice as high as the U.S. average. And yet, the workers, whose labor produces all that wealth, not only live in poverty and get poisoned, but they won’t even have hospitals to go to when they get sick!

This problem is common for hospitals in low-income, rural areas. Across the U.S., more than 170 rural hospitals closed their doors between 2005 and 2020. The number of closures went down to 10 during the next two years, mainly thanks to the federal financial assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic. But, now that the Covid aid is over, more closures are likely. A recent study by the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform found that more than 600 rural hospitals—about 30% of all rural hospitals in the U.S.—are at risk of closing.

Under capitalism, profit comes before everything else, including human life and well-being. And it’s the working class and poor who pay the price.