Friday, June 17, 2016
[Stanislaus County] Health care district pleased with grand jury investigation
The Stanislaus County civil grand jury released Monday findings of an investigation into the Del Puerto Health Care District that had been prompted by two citizen complaints alleging mismanagement by the board of directors.
Karin Hennings, who started as administrative director of Del Puerto May 9 (after the report was written), said she was pleased with the findings of the grand jury, who reports the district delivers “good quality” health care and ambulance services and is “effectively managed.”
Dr. Steven Pittson, health board president, said the grand jurors did a thorough job and that their recommendations are well received.
A news release from the health district does not explicitly comment on each recommendation from the grand jury, who says Del Puerto should delay expansion of its health center until its operational budget justifies doing so and that its board should institute policy to preclude micromanagement of the district by its directors. The investigation revealed a board that is “divided, unsure, and unclear in their roles and responsibilities as well as those of the CEO,” according to the grand jury.
Additionally, the grand jury says that without increased public outreach and training, the board will not attract new qualified members and dysfunction will continue among its directors.
Del Puerto’s statement on the report says that the district appreciates community input. “Not only did the grand jury’s report validate the job the district is currently doing, but it also helped point the way forward for continued outreach and improvement.”
The district’s statement says that some of the grand jury’s recommendations had already been identified and implemented, and “others are going to be carefully considered in the coming months.”
One recommendation, that the district publish its board meeting minutes on its website, is already implemented.
“Their recommendations were all taken in stride and well received, with good intention on all of it,” Pittson said by phone Wednesday.
Hennings’s hiring as administrative director – the position formerly known as CEO – happened after the grand jury’s investigation. Her contract was ratified June 2, and one grand jury recommendation called on the board to make sure her job description is firm and matches the specifications used to recruit her.
In addition to mismanagement by the board of directors, the complaints alleged that an employee misused district credit cards and a Patterson District Ambulance vehicle, an ambulance crew was involved in two traffic accidents on the same day, a board member inappropriately influenced the establishment of a clinic in a relative’s business, a board member created a conflict of interest by also serving on a board for malpractice insurance, and board members micromanaged day-to-day operations of the district.
The grand jury concluded that most of the allegations had been resolved through new management or had no merit.
According to the grand jury, the district – which brings in revenue through patient fees, private insurance reimbursements and Medicare and Medi-Cal payments – is too reliant on Stanislaus County taxes and Patterson special tax assessments.
While a February 2016 audit concluded the health district’s financials are in fair condition, the grand jury said that Del Puerto should increase its reserves before expanding its health clinic. Jurors also recommended the district hire a part-time CFO.
The grand jury commended Del Puerto’s health clinic and ambulance company for being effectively managed and provided beneficial services to the local community.
“In an era of high competition and shrinking resources, these are major findings that make the health care district and ambulance services very proud. We are further pleased that the grand jury found that allegations of wrongdoing and ineffective management are without basis,” reads Del Puerto’s statement.
In their annual report, the civil grand jurors also assessed the Community Services Agency, participated in law enforcement ride-alongs, inspected county jail and coroner’s facilities, conducted a building study and evaluated county election practices.
The presiding judge of the Stanislaus County Superior Court selects the civil grand jury, a government watchdog panel that serves a one-year term. Officials have 90 days to respond in writing to the grand jury, though its recommendations are not legally binding.
June 16, 2016
The Tracy Press
By Nathan Duckworth