1. Under what circumstances do you think the Healthcare District should be dissolved, and what process would you use to determine whether or not to pursue that course of action.
The original ballot language is pretty clear that the purpose of creating the healthcare district in 2002 was to keep Alameda Hospital open. So, from my perspective, if there is ever a moment that Alameda Hospital needs to be closed – it will be time to reconsider the role and function of the City of Alameda Healthcare District as well. What’s important to keep in mind, is that the Board of the Healthcare District does not have the authority to dissolve the District, nor to restructure the parcel tax (other than to set the amount that should be collected each year). Dissolving the District, or fundamentally changing anything about the parcel tax (like the method of calculating it, or who has to pay it) would have to be decided by the citizen voters of the City of Alameda, in a special or general election.
2. Explain your understanding of the challenges currently facing the Health Care district.
All hospitals in the country, and in California, face fundamentally the same challenges. The demand for healthcare services is growing, particularly as the population ages. The reimbursement for healthcare services is constantly shrinking, especially from government programs like Medicare (which is the payer of the majority of hospital healthcare bills). An extraordinary number of people don’t have access to adequate healthcare coverage – and do not have the personal financial resources to pay their bills. The technology and talent required to deliver high quality, safe, patient care is more and more costly and on top of all of that, the hospital industry is bombarded by unfunded regulatory mandates – some examples include seismic retrofitting requirements (in California) and meeting the requirements of “meaningful use” of electronic health records in order to qualify for Medicare payments.
Alameda Hospital is particularly challenged, because it is one of the last independent, basic general acute care hospitals in the metropolitan San Francisco healthcare market. There’s a reason there aren’t many other hospitals like Alameda’s in our market. The industry pressures are enormous, and trying to meet that challenge as a very small player in a market characterized by fierce competition from bigger, more highly capitalized hospital systems is enormous.
With the help provided by the parcel tax, Alameda Hospital needs to do what other successful hospitals have done before us. We have to develop programs and services that are outside the basic set of hospital based services – and use the revenue and profit from those efforts to ensure that we are able to maintain and sustain those core hospital services –the surgical, inpatient and diagnostic services that are required to support the full service ER that Alamedans want to have available to them when they need it.
3. How does your experience directly apply to the job of a hospital boardmember?
I am formally trained as a hospital administrator, with Masters degrees in Business Administration (MBA) and in Public Health (MPH) from U.C. Berkeley, although I’ve never worked in the administration of a hospitals (I’ve worked in consulting, in very large physician organizations and in health plans). In fact, I have over 30 years of healthcare work experience – in all kinds of settings, and I’m a nationally recognized expert in many aspects of healthcare reform. I’ve also had the experience of helping to run a government sponsored, non-profit HMO for Medi-Cal recipients, and in that job I was accountable to a publically appointed Board of Directors, not unlike the one that governs Alameda Hospital. Those professional experiences provide me the background that’s valuable and useful in my work for the City of Alameda Healthcare District.
4. What are the top three objectives you would would like accomplish if you are elected?
I believe my responsibility as a Healthcare District Board member is to balance two objectives:
- Provide prudent fiscal stewardship of the public’s money – the parcel tax that supports the hospital, and
- Ensure that Alameda Hospital provides high quality, safe patient care that’s available for the residents of the City of Alameda, and visitors to the City.
Equally important, I believe Alameda Hospital has to be able to be in a position to contribute in a meaningful way to the overall healthcare infrastructure of the larger regional community – by providing high quality, safe, patient services that meet the needs of the larger region as well.
These objectives find their expression in our recent program expansions; the achievement of Primary Stroke Center certification (in which we’ve partnered with the Stroke Program at Eden Hospital, and collaborated with Alameda County to promote stroke awareness and education) the opening of the Wound Care Center (which will generate revenue and provide a treatment modality that is in short supply in the region), the operational contract at Waters Edge skilled nursing facility (which will also generate revenue, and where we can provide a higher level of service for our most fragile elderly population – which is growing) and the launch of our new orthopedic service (which will bring orthopedic services to a region in which they are in short supply).
We have more initiatives like these in the planning stages, and I am anxious to be able to help guide them to completion. I’ll be able to do that if I’m re-elected.
5. What issues have you been directly involved in with relation to the hospital? What was the outcome?
I’ve served on the Board for the past six years. For most of that time I’ve been the President of the Board. I’ve provided steady, consistent, leadership for administration and the board during this time, as we’ve negotiated our way through some profound setbacks and business downturns. I personally have helped recruit a world-class administrative team with the strategic, financial and clinical expertise that’s required to make this endeavor a success and I played, and continue to play, a major leadership role in the effort to develop new services and programs (like the Wound Care Center, the Orthopedics program and our expansion in skilled nursing and other long term care services) that will meet local and regional needs, and generate the revenue that’s critical to the long term financial sustainability of Alameda Hospital.
6. As an elected official what is your specific role in promoting civic engagement as opposed to staff’s role?
I believe my job as a Healthcare District Board member is to provide effective stewardship for the public funds that are used to support the hospital. I’m also responsible, as is any hospital Board member at any hospital in the United States, for the safety and quality of the overall operations of the hospital – specifically the quality and safety of the patient care services that are rendered. Obviously, I can’t do the work myself – but the Board is ultimately responsible for everything that happens at the hospital.
One element of public engagement that I’d like to devote more of my time to in the next four years is in raising public awareness of, and participation in, the programs and services that Alameda Hospital offers and will offer to the community that supports it.
7. Who is funding your campaign and which groups and individuals have endorsed your candidacy?
I haven’t done much fundraising yet, but my plans are to leverage the community members who support the hospital and it’s goals. I’ve received the endorsement of a number of local public officials, including Wilma Chan (Alameda County Board of Supervisors), Mayor Marie Gilmore, City Council Members Bonta and Tam, former Mayor, and current Peralta College Board of Trustees), as well as many members of the community who are both patients and supporters of Alameda Hospital.
Bonus Question: There are multiple seats available in the races for City Council, the School Board and the Hospital Board. Besides yourself, who will you be voting for in your race and why
I was about to cry “foul” on this question Lauren, and cite the privacy of the secret ballot. But the fact is, I’m perfectly happy to tell anyone who asks that after I vote for myself, I’ll cast my vote for my colleague Mike McCormick who has served on the Board with me for the past 4 years, and who is also running for re-election. Mike’s a thoughtful hard-working member of the District Board, he has been a strong chair for our Finance Committee – and I believe that experienced, prepared, engaged leadership – like Mike can provide, will be a critical success factor for achieving our objectives over the next four years.