Tuesday, August 2, 2016

[San Joaquin County] Health care board 'appreciates' grand jury recommendations

The Board of Directors for the Del Puerto Health Care District approved a formal response to the county civil grand jury Monday that is in line with previous comments thanking the watchdog group and lauding the findings of its investigation.
Two citizen complaints alleging mismanagement prompted the civil grand jury’s investigation into Del Puerto. A report released in June found that the district delivers “good quality” health care and ambulance services and is “effectively managed.”
Allegations ranged from mismanagement – and micromanagement – by the board to an ambulance crew being involved in two traffic accidents in one day. The civil grand jury concluded most claims to be without merit or resolved under new administration.
Directors found the district’s response, signed by board president Dr. Steven Pittson, thorough in addressing the number of recommendations investigators did have – among them, that the board educate voters on its responsibilities and receive team-building training.
Pittson stated in the letter that the board “continues to seek opportunities for public engagement” and “develop a district-wide culture of cooperation and collaboration” that “will naturally include training and education at regular intervals for team and community building.”
“The Board also appreciates the Grand Jury’s recommendation of a policy to avoid ‘board micromanagement,’ and will consider different options,” Pittson said in response to a suggestion regarding the relationship between the board and the district CEO, now called administrative director.
The Board of Directors, who have had trouble retaining CEOs in recent years, have addressed the expectations of the administrative director and made “significant improvements” in reconciling the job description with specifications used for recruiting. Following the civil grand jury investigation, the board brought on Karin Hennings as administrative director in May, officially ratifying her contract in June.
Hennings has “excellent CFO capabilities and background,” according to Pittson’s response to the recommendation that the board hire a part-time CFO. “However, the issue is monitored regularly to ensure that the CFO functions do not become unwieldy due to the District’s continued growth,” he continued.
The civil grand jury recommended that Del Puerto delay expansion of its health center as well, and the board’s response indicated that there are no immediate plans to do so “until patient volume demands it.”
The district has already completed its purchase of 1700 Keystone Pacific Parkway Building C, the future site of expansion and, according to the board, a sound investment. Leased out, the building’s “net income easily services the debt plus contributes a significant portion to an annual reduction of outstanding (principal),” Pittson said in his response.
The health center plans to expand into Building C once patient volume sufficiently increases and the additional services on offer can cover the costs of the extra space.
Another jury recommendation questioned whether the health district is receiving all of the tax revenue it’s due from the city of Patterson and Stanislaus County. Del Puerto should request audits of both agencies, investigators concluded; in response, the district intends to reach out to both to evaluate possible discrepancies.
Director Ed Maring said the response is well-written and covered the issues during Monday night’s board meeting.
“You address the issue and don’t create more,” he said.
The civil grand jury had also recommended that the district publish minutes for Board of Directors meetings online, which it began doing prior to Monday’s formal response.
Recommendations of the civil grand jury, a government watchdog panel that serves a one-year term, are not legally binding, but officials have to respond to them in writing within 90 days.
July 27, 2016
The Tracy Press
By Nathan Duckworth

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