ALAMEDA ELECTIONS '12: Introducing your Alameda Health Care District Board candidates

ALAMEDA ELECTIONS '12: Introducing your Alameda Health Care District Board candidates

Michele Ellson

Four people are running for two seats on the Alameda Health Care District Board this fall in what could be a make-or-break year for Alameda Hospital, whose management is hopeful that new programs can raise enough money to help lift the hospital out of its deep fiscal slump and also help the hospital meet critical upgrade deadlines.

The candidates include incumbent board President Jordan Battani and incumbent board member J. Michael McCormick, along with former Board of Education trustee Tracy Jensen and nurse and business owner Leland Traiman.

Battani and McCormick touted the addition of new services and the hospital’s recently won stroke certification as reasons voters should keep them on the board, and they said cost-cutting has made Alameda Hospital one of the most efficient facilities in California. Jensen said she thinks more changes can be made to improve the hospital, while Traiman said he thinks allowing members of the hospital’s board to do business with Alameda Hospital is a conflict of interest that should be stopped.

“I am seeking an additional term to enhance quality care and protect our local safety net during difficult financial times,” McCormick said. “The hospital continues to face opportunities and challenges as we prepare for healthcare expansion in 2014, and I want to assist in those endeavors.”

McCormick, who has served on the board for four years and ran his own business for 25 years, said he led efforts to stabilize the hospital’s finances by signing off on expanded outpatient services and the creation of a new hospital-owned wound care center in Marina Village, and that he was part of the board that oversaw the hospital’s certification to accept stroke patients. He said he led efforts to boost state funding for the hospital and to build support among local and state elected officials, and that he has advocated for more transparency and “careful allocation” of the hospital’s scarce dollars.

Traiman has worked as a nurse for over 30 years, the last 18 running Rainbow Flag Health Services & Sperm Bank, which seeks to increase access to fertility medical care to the LGBT community. He served as the chair of Berkeley’s Domestic Partnership Task Force, which drafted what has been described as the template for domestic partner policies worldwide, and also drafted the Library Relief Act of 1980, which he said originated the concept of per-square-foot taxation. Traiman, who also helped draft state bills to increase access to fertility care, now sits on the Alameda County Paul Robeson Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Traiman said he sees board members renting office space or having business dealings where they could profit from the hospital as a conflict of interest, and that board members who allow such a conflict to continue become complicit in the conflict “and, in the worst case scenario, vote trading for favors occurs.

“I do not know if anything like that has occurred on the Alameda Hospital board. But even the possibility should be avoided because board members are guardians of the public trust,” Traiman said.

“Our hospital board has allowed Alameda Hospital board members to do business with Alameda Hospital,” Traiman said, noting that property owners support the hospital with $6 million a year in parcel tax money. “Board members should represent the public, not their own business interests. This conflict of interest is wrong and should be stopped.”

Traiman did not single out any specific board members as having such a conflict. A resident asked the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate board member Robert Deutsch for a potential conflict of interest since he earns income from the hospital, but the commission closed his case without action in April.

Battani, a health care strategy consultant who has worked in health care leadership for more than 30 years – including several in top positions for the Health Plan of San Joaquin and Blue Shield of California – said her focus as board president has been on ensuring clinical service excellence at the hospital and long-term financial sustainability. During her six years on the board, Battani said the hospital has achieved national recognition and certification for the quality of its programs, and that it has “implemented rigorous cost management programs and begun the expansion of high value healthcare services and programs designed to meet current, and future, community needs as well as provide new sources of revenue.”

“There are certainly challenges – but we are well on the way, and I believe with focused, accountable leadership and commitment we're in a good position to succeed,” Battani said.

Battani specifically called out the hospital’s successful effort to gain certification as a Primary Stroke Center; treatment efforts are undertaken in collaboration with Eden Medical Center, and the hospital now offers community education about strokes that she said was partially underwritten by Alameda County.

“My hope is that this type of collaboration will be a model for the future as we develop and launch programs and services,” Battani said.

Jensen, who served on Alameda’s Board of Education for eight years and was on the hospital’s strategic planning workgroup for two, has worked since 2000 as the senior services administrator for the City of Oakland. Prior to that she spent eight years in Washington, D.C. working for the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, where she wrote health care regulations, served on a team that drafted the first health care reform legislation and worked to eliminate government inefficiency as a member of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

Jensen, who has also served on the boards of the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Alameda Soccer Club and the League of Women Voters of Alameda, said she wants to make sure the hospital and its programs serve as a resource for the community.

“While there have been a number of positive changes over the past several years, I believe that there is still work to do and my experience and background can make the hospital better,” she said.