Back in the late 1990s while I was on the board of directors of the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District we came within a few days of permanently closing the hospital and clinic. Many in the community had no idea how close it came. Outward appearances were deceiving. After all we had enough local M.D.s to staff the E.R, Jerold Phelps was still seeing his old patients and we had a very good group of mid-level providers in the house.
But behind the scenes the district was falling apart. I remember when the then C.E.O. stopped me in the hall outside the meeting room and informed me that he had no money for the upcoming payroll and he needed help. A few days later I was in the room when our then C.F.O. persuaded a local bank to loan the district $750,000 with the understanding that the title to the district’s real estate was to be the collateral.
It was then clear that the administrators were in way over their heads and we brought in outside consultants to run the district. They quickly informed us that the district was losing $160,000 a month and recommended filing for bankruptcy as our best choice to stay in business while we cleaned up the mess. It turned out that the $750,000 loan was illegal. Private lenders cannot encumber a government-chartered institution and the debt was thrown out during bankruptcy.
I relate this story in hopes of showing how important competent administrators are to the continued delivery of medical care in our community.
We are facing an important election for three board seats at the district and thankfully we have a number of candidates running for these seats. I am voting for Corrine Stromstad and David Ordonez for the four-year seats and Clif Anderson to fill the remaining two years of the other seat. I feel strongly they have the experience to work with staff to steer the district staff to steer the district through the uncertain fiscal future of medical funding in this economy. I hope you will join me.