Candidate for Del Puerto Health Care Board
What do you specifically plan to accomplish if you are elected to the Del Puerto Health Care District Board? Why do you want to be on the board?
If I am reelected to the Del Puerto Health Care Board, my goal for the district in the immediate future is to complete the move of the clinic to the Keystone Pacific Business Park. This will allow for expanded medical services for our community. Our present location in the Ramos business park is too small for these services to be added. We have many specialists who are wiling to come to Patterson but cannot be accommodated at the present location in an efficient manner.
Being on the Del Puerto Health Care Board has been part of my life for 30 years. I have seen a lot in those years such as the time the ambulance service was going to be terminated because of a lack of a buyer. It was offered for sale, but for business reasons nobody wanted it including the city and the fire district. The health care district thought it was important that we have an ambulance, so that is how the district got into the ambulance business. It has been difficult financially to operate it, but with the help of the ambulance tax passed by the voters, we now have a service that is second to none in the county.
I could go on and on telling you about how board got the old senior center on the hospital grounds and the battle with the city on locating Sutter Health Care next to the hospital. Probably the most difficult decision for the board was closing the hospital.
The district was only months from bankruptcy if this action was not taken. This action allowed the district to continue to operate the ambulance and pay all of its vendors to the hospital in full. This was the right decision at the time. I am very proud of it.
After the hospital closed, we had no CEO at the Health Care District. I, as board president, acted in that capacity on behalf of the board for four years. During that period, we paid off all our debts, built the ambulance and district’s quarters. We also accumulated capital to start a clinic, which the people of the district stated was most important to them after losing the emergency room with the closing of the hospital.
The clinic has been a most trying time for the district. After a great start, the district was faced with a lawsuit from Dr. Paul Berry and an attempt by John Ramos to stop our move to the Keystone Pacific Business Park. These two actions by these individuals has cost the district more than a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees, money that should have been spent on health care.
What are the immediate needs for health care on the West Side? What needs to happen to bring those services to Patterson?
The expanded clinic that will open soon will cover the immediate needs for health care for the West Side within the budget that is proposed by the district.
What do you foresee for the future of health care on the West Side? Are there enough people on the West Side to support a future hospital or large-scale medical facility?
As the West Side grows, it will need more medical services to serve a greater population base. This would include a larger clinic, more physicians that include the specialties and maybe a surgery center. After you have a large enough population base along with a medical community, you might be able to consider a new hospital. The hospital comes last because of the cost to build and operate. It is estimated now that you need a population base of 80,000 to 100,000 people to have a successful hospital. Today’s cost of a complete new 100-bed hospital runs at $2 million per bed or $200 million.
Is the Del Puerto Health Care District doing all that it can to maintain a positive bottom line financially? If financial cuts should be made, where should they happen?
Del Puerto Health Care District is in strong financial position in spite of what you read in the Patterson Irrigator. We have just been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $2.1 million loan to build out the new clinic. The debt service on this loan will only be slightly more than our rent payments to John Ramos at the present clinic location. The district is subsidized by your tax money. The purpose of these funds is to help provide more health services to the people of the district and not to build up in a bank account. If financial cuts are needed in the future to maintain the strength of the district, this can be accomplished by cutting back services provided by the district. At this time we see no need for that.
Is the health care district doing all that it can to make its decisions transparent to the public? Are there any improvements that can be made in this area?
The district is a political subdivision created in the late 1940s to provide for the heath care of the people of Patterson and surrounding communities. At that time it was to operate a hospital. Now that a hospital is not viable in our community we have answered the people’s call for medical facilities by operating the clinic and the ambulance service.
Being that the district is a self-governing political subdivision, it is subject to the Brown Act at all times. This board has always respected that fact. Most lawyers who deal with the Brown Act will tell you that it is poorly written and therefore subject to much interpretation. In the legal opinion of our legal counsel, at no time has the board of Del Puerto Health Care District violated the Brown Act. If others want to disagree, that is their opinion and taken for what it is. Because health care districts have to compete with the private sector, there are special provisions in the health care act that allow districts to keep in confidence certain compete facts, especially when it comes to real estate. Even with this all said, health care districts may never act in closed session. All action must be taken in open session. This district has never violated this section of the law as we have been accused.
The district always has one meeting a month. These and any special meetings are always held only after proper posting subject to the provisions of the Brown Act. We encourage everyone in the community to attend who has an interest in health care. There are always good things happening in the district. We are involved in blood banks, healthy choices for our students in school, and also in women's health. Too many times I look for positive news stories in the Irrigator about what the health care district is doing but I see none. Many times what I read are less than half-truths and are only written to undermine the credibility of the district.