As an elected member and board chair of the Sequoia Healthcare District, I have in the past focused my energy on district projects and participating in the daily business of overseeing grants and programs; however, I am now compelled to assist fellow board member Jack Hickey (Op-Ed: "The hospital district that won’t die” in the Oct. 25 edition of the Daily Journal) in conveying the true mission of our health care district, dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of all district residents. As Mr. Hickey documented in his recent guest perspective, we are succeeding in many ways including feeding the hungry, making sure that every child in our district has access to quality medical services, funding school nurses and healthy programs for more than 25,000 students, supporting breast cancer services and fitness classes for seniors. While Mr. Hickey consistently maintains a negative and sarcastic view of those services; as a practicing health care provider in our community, I see them as a vital and basic means of keeping the community healthy and prosperous. I also know that maintaining the health of the community is cost effective to the taxpayer at large since it is quite simply cheaper to pay for good health versus health problems.
Today, Sequoia Healthcare District is involved with more than 40 community health programs covering almost every health care need from mental health services to hospice to hot meals for the homebound. We serve as our area’s main advocate for disease prevention and wellness and touch the lives of more than 30,000 residents a year directly and countless more indirectly. The district and Board of Directors is composed of elected community leaders with a great majority of district resident overwhelmingly in favor of our efforts on their behalf. We take very seriously our stewardship of taxpayer dollars and keep administrative overhead to a low 6 percent; almost all of which comes from earnings on our investments as well as the diligent oversight of our executive director Lee Michelson who is often and unfairly publicly chastised by Mr. Hickey. We have a small but outstanding staff of highly educated and experienced professionals who support the board’s desire to excel in all that we do.
With Mr. Hickey’s vote, the health care district did indeed get out of the "hospital business” but the district also has a long history of funding healthy community programs and grants. And while Mr. Hickey likes to refer to our grants and programs as "philanthropy,” it should also be understood by the community that Mr. Hickey has very extreme views regarding all tax-funded programs believing that public education should be abolished and the poor will be fed only by those who choose to feed them. It is little wonder that he has a problem with providing funding for a healthy schools program or life saving equipment such as defibrillators and CPR devices now enthusiastically endorsed by our own fire departments. What is most perplexing is Mr. Hickey’s statement that we are funding an insurance program for children "with family incomes approaching five figures”; an indication he is out of touch with cost of living, rising cost of health insurance and simply the sheer number of dollars required to survive in the Bay Area. Ironically, Mr. Hickey currently and consistently during his tenure on the board has collected his health care benefit supplied by Sequoia Healthcare District.
Most unfortunate was Mr. Hickey’s criticism of district Boardmember Arthur Faro, former CEO of Sequoia Hospital, who provided excellent stewardship of the hospital during some of the most tumultuous periods of health care. Mr. Faro is still held in high regard by physicians and nurses alike, an attribute most understand is admirable and rare in the current corporate health care culture. One would assume Mr. Hickey’s sarcastic comment regarding "white knight” Catholic Healthcare West "buying the right to take over (Sequoia) hospital operations” would indicate they did this without board approval. However, Mr. Hickey wholeheartedly agreed and voted to transfer ownership of the hospital to CHW.
Clearly, Mr. Hickey would like to see the district dissolved and he intentionally fails to mention that in this case taxes continue to be collected and go toward the general tax fund where our district residents derive no direct benefit. Similarly, he chides the board for our use of public relations or "branding” while forgetting the board was mandated by the civil grand jury to provide adequate information to the public regarding district programs. The grand jury investigation was initiated by Mr. Hickey to advance his political dogma and eliminate the board. And while Mr. Hickey continues to use his time to undermine the hard work of the other board members, he neglects to participate in any district program, never contributes his time to any of the community organizations funded by the district and ridicules the citizens who attend board meetings to give testimony to the positive outcomes of our work. Mr. Hickey did get one thing correct in his guest perspective; he is an elected member of the Sequoia Healthcare District Board. It is my opinion that he has not provided meaningful work as a board member and does not fulfill his duty as an elected official.
Kim Griffin, RN, is the chair of the Sequoia Health Care District Board of Directors.