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OP-ED: The hospital district that won't die
October 25, 2011, 04:21 AM By Jack Hickey

The Sequoia Hospital District (AKA Sequoia Healthcare District) built, owned and operated Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City until it was sold in 1996. The district is now engaged in frantic activities to justify its continued existence.

Creation of

Sequoia Hospital District

In 1946, petitions were circulated for the purpose of establishing a local hospital in Southern San Mateo County. An election was called and voters approved the creation of Sequoia Hospital District as the vehicle. District boundaries were identical to Sequoia High School District at the time. It was understood that there would be future bond issues to build and add to it. Property taxes were assessed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the hospital was built. It opened in 1950.

Sale of Sequoia Hospital

The district got out of the hospital business after Art Faro, then CEO of Sequoia Hospital ran up a $29 million deficit. That led to a voter-approved bailout sale of the hospital in 1996 (Measure H), with "white knight” Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) buying the right to take over hospital operations. CHW assumed responsibility for debt repayment and pension plan funding.

The Board of Directors at that time sought to change the purpose of the district, which no longer owned a hospital, to include powers provided in recent health care district law. Without an election as provided for by that law, Sequoia Hospital District "morphed” into Sequoia Healthcare District and began engaging in philanthropic activity. Property taxes continue to be collected.

Grand Jury Questions

Sequoia Healthcare District’s

Use of Tax Revenue

The 2001 Grand Jury reviewed the district’s newly assumed role. Their recommendation:

"The Sequoia Healthcare District should reduce property taxes for district taxpayers unless in a future election district voters approve expenditures for purposes not approved by district voters in the 1946 measure establishing the district or in 1996 Measure H.”

The 2002 Grand Jury found: "Since the sale of the hospital the district has assumed a role similar to that of a philanthropic foundation. This is a function of the district that was never presented to the voters for their approval under 1996 Measure H.”

Jack Hickey elected

to Sequoia Healthcare

District’s Board of Directors

In November of 2002, I was elected to the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors on a platform based upon the Jury’s findings. I was denied a seat on the Sequoia Health Services (SHS) Board intended to provide a taxpayer oversight function for hospital operations.

In February 2003, SHS and the district were on a fast track to demolish Sequoia Hospital and rebuild down by Highway 101. My referendum petitioning effort derailed that move, and a seismically sound major upgrade to Sequoia Hospital on the Whipple/Alameda site was agreed upon. Funding came from CHW, the Sequoia Hospital Foundation and the district. In 2007, CHW assumed complete ownership of the Sequoia Hospital campus, including the Medical Office Building, with the district becoming a shareholder via an EBIDA profit-sharing arrangement.

How the district

spends your tax dollars

The district employs a CEO and executive assistant with payroll costs: $250,000/year. Two standalone programs with directors and staff add: $200,000/year to the payroll. These programs are:

1). HeartSafe: distributes Automated Electronic Defibrillators (AEDs). While other states have mandated AEDs for all schools on a state level, California has only mandated them for privately owned health studios. This program is not a proper function of the district. Former Atherton police chief, Glenn Nielson, was chosen as project manager.

2). Healthy Schools Initiative ($4.5 million over three years) — subsidizes school district programs. School districts don’t need district program managers and staff to tell them how to use the money.

They have increased their pseudo-philanthropy and launched PR "branding” activities costing more than $100,000/year.

The district grants $1.35 million/year to a health insurance program (which supports abortion on demand) for children with family incomes approaching five figures.

With tax dollars, they corrupt charitable organizations otherwise funded by voluntary contributions. Examples: St. Anthony de Padua Dining Room ($100,000) and Mission Hospice and Home Care ($35,000).

They have authorized a $2.5 million challenge grant to the Sequoia Hospital Foundation which supports the CHW-owned hospital.

They provide $1 million/year to subsidize 40 nurses enrolled in a Baccalaureate Nursing Program with no payback or "employment within the district” requirements! Nine nurses recently found employment in Palm Springs. The nurses’ union should fund this program.

The Sequoia Healthcare District should be dissolved, with tax revenue dispersed among the public entities within the district boundaries.

Jack Hickey is a member of the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors. He lives in Emerald Hills.

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