Saturday, June 23, 2012

(Riverside Co) BANNING: Grand jury faults health care district

BY ERIN WALDNER - Press-Enterprise

A Riverside County civil grand jury report faults the San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District for its management of a $108 million bond measure.

Measure A was supposed to pay for a new intensive care unit and emergency department, a helicopter pad, upgrades to information technology, a central plant to house boilers and chillers, and a six-story patient tower.

The measure passed in 2006. Afterward, hospital officials acknowledged it looked like there would not be enough money from bond sales to build the patient tower, and that project was put on the back burner.

Hospital representatives have attributed the shortfall to a rise in building costs.

The grand jury report says one factor in this “disconnect between the requested bond money amount and the final projected cost” is the failure to have detailed construction plans prepared, which led to inaccurate cost projections.

Other findings in the grand jury report:

There is public perception that having the hospital CEO serve as a voting member of the hospital board is a conflict of interest.

It is difficult for the public to determine exactly how their tax dollars are being spent because the district co-mingles its hospital and taxpayer revenues.

It is estimated it would have cost $184 million to build a six-story patient tower along with the rest of the project.

Hospital CEO Mark Turner has said the district would have to look for outside revenue sources to finance the costs, and that another bond measure is an option.

The grand jury report recommends that if a new bond measure is pursued, the district needs to include verifiable construction costs and the scope of the project, and not inflate the final product in news releases.

It also calls on the district to pursue all other possible funding sources before asking voters to support a bond measure.

In a statement Friday, June 22, Turner said, “I have read the grand jury’s report on San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District and will soon begin reviewing and evaluating their report and recommendations with our board of directors. A response will be provided to the grand jury, as required, within 90 days of their report.

“Upon initial review,” he continued, “I am pleased to see that the grand jury has identified areas of improvement that we, too, have identified for improvement and have already addressed or are in the process of addressing.”

Turner was hired after Measure A was passed and bond sales revenues started coming into the district. He came on board in 2009.

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