ELECTION 2014: Alameda Health Care District Board
ELECTION 2014: Alameda Health Care District Board
Candidates for four open Alameda Health Care District Board seats offer a range of policy and practical health care experience – and a universal desire to continue providing care right here on the Island.
Four people – incumbents Lynn Bratchett, Robert Deutsch and Tracy Jensen, along with newcomer Jim Meyers – are running for three open, four-year terms on the board; newly appointed board member Kathryn Sáenz Duke is vying solo for a two-year term, so her name won’t appear on the ballot. Each of the five candidates has decades of experience in the health care industry.
With its recent affiliation deal placing management of Alameda Hospital to the leadership of Alameda Health System, the local board’s chief responsibilities are to ensure the countywide health system keeps promises to leave the hospital’s emergency room open and complete near-term seismic upgrades – and to make sure the roughly $6 million in parcel taxes Alameda’s property owners pay stay right here on the Island. But at least one board candidate says he thinks there’s more the board, and the district, can do to ensure Alamedans’ health and that it could play a broader role in the community.
Here’s a quick rundown on the skills and experience of each of the candidates who are running for the board, along with their thoughts on the office they’re seeking; a list of questions answered by four of the five candidates is available on The Alamedan’s election page.
Bratchett was appointed to serve on the board in July 2013, besting five other candidates for his seat. A registered nurse and manager with three decades of health care experience who also has a master’s degree in business administration and is now working as a real estate broker, business owner and an instructional leader at Merritt College, he voted in favor of the proposal to affiliate with Alameda Health System, which was announced just before he joined the board.
Bratchett reaffirmed his support for keeping Alameda Hospital open despite the fact that many Island residents get their primary health care elsewhere.
“Even though many residents are members of Kaiser or Sutter, when one needs hospitalization and treatment, it is usually sudden and seconds matter,” he said.
He said the board’s chief duty in the wake of its affiliation with the countywide health system is to monitor its use to ensure Alamedans continue to get the health care they need on Island; expanding community outreach is another priority. Bratchett said other services the health care district could consider providing include additional services for aging Alamedans.
One challenge the board will face, he said, is figuring out how to help younger people pay for increasingly costly care.
Deutsch, a physician with offices in the hospital, has been on the board since 2008. He voted in favor of the affiliation deal with Alameda Health System and has been a staunch advocate for keeping the hospital’s doors open.
Deutsch did not respond to The Alamedan’s questions about the role of board members in the wake of the affiliation deal and the future of the hospital.
Kathryn Sáenz Duke
Duke, who was appointed to the board in July, is running unopposed for the remaining two years of her term. Her name won’t appear on the November ballot.
Her resume includes experience as a litigator, researcher and nonprofit director; she is currently working part-time as an independent consultant. Her three decades of experience in medical care and public health policy work include eight years as the director of Medicine for People in Need, or Medpin, a nonprofit that helped uninsured Californians obtain medicines; and service as the principal consultant to the state Senate Select Committee on AIDS at the height of the AIDS crisis.
She holds undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas and both a master’s degree in public health and a law degree from the University at California, Berkeley. Duke is also a member of the Alameda Point Collaborative board and the board for the California Public Health Association-North.
She said the board’s main role is to help the district’s affiliation deal with Alameda Health System work to the benefit of both the hospital and the health system. Her main priorities on the board will include ensuring good communication with health system leaders, making sure necessary seismic work is completed at Alameda Hospital and “proactively reach(ing) out to local organizations and individuals to affirm and examine our core values while major organizational and service changes occur.”
Challenges and opportunities for the local hospital and health care district include operating in “competition and/or cooperation” with other health care entities in an increasingly consolidated system, combining the care available locally with what’s offered by the Alameda Health System as a whole, and working with the community to revisit and potentially, adjust the type of care available locally.
Tracy Jensen was selected to join the health care district board in February 2013, applying for a seat in her third attempt to join the board. Prior to joining this board, she spent eight years as a school district trustee on Alameda’s Board of Education; in addition to being on the district board, she sits on the Alameda Health System Board of Trustees.
Jensen, who has two decades’ worth of health care experience, has been Oakland’s senior services administrator since 2000; earlier in her career she helped draft health care regulations for the state of Maryland and also, an earlier federal health care reform effort, and she was picked to implement a new Healthy Families program in the office of then-Vice President Al Gore. In addition to serving on the health care district board, she has held leadership roles with the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Alameda Soccer Club, and the Alameda League of Women Voters.
Jensen, who voted in favor of affiliating with Alameda Health System, said safety of employees and patients is her top priority.
“That is why the partnership with the Alameda Health System is so critical – because it provides funds for the immediate $12 to $15 million in seismic repairs that will keep the aging hospital open, safe and accessible,” she said.
Other priorities include moving forward with the district’s partnership with the countywide health system – which she believes could help Alamedans newly covered under the Affordable Care Act get services right here at home – and reaching out to residents to find out what additional services they might want to see here.
Jensen said she thinks the board’s jobs include sustaining the district’s partnership with Alameda Health System – and making sure the county system’s leaders fulfill their promises to complete seismic improvements and keep emergency services on the Island. She said the board should also work with legislators on bills to support community hospitals.
Jim Meyers is the sole challenger in this year’s health care district board race. Meyers, a former health system administrator and faculty member who now works as a health care consultant and sits on the Alameda County Public Health Commission, said the board needs to insist on funding for direct care through Alameda Hospital and to support additional health and well-being priorities citywide.
“I believe the board needs a much different set of credentials and experiences than it has among current officers to successfully accomplish its new mission,” Meyers said.
Meyers, a retired Air Force colonel, has worked as the director of Tricare in Northern California, which provided civilian health benefits for military personnel and their families and also, as a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, Baylor and Trinity universities. He has also served on boards of a local YMCA organization and Ronald McDonald House. He holds a doctorate in public health from Cal and a masters degree in health administration.
A cancer survivor, Meyers said he wants the hospital and health district to work toward community well being, as opposed to simply eradicating illness. Rather than contracting in the wake of its affiliation with Alameda Health System, he said the district’s mission should expand to include partnering with the countywide system to provide equitable and sustainable direct care services and partnering with residents, community organizations and city government to pursue community well being.
If elected, he said his top priorities would be building stronger ties to the community and partnerships between the staffs of Alameda Hospital and Alameda Health System, building a sustainable business model and addressing infrastructure and preparedness deficits.
With the proper oversight, Meyers said, the new affiliation with Alameda Health System can bring about more coordinated care for Alameda residents, with connected electronic records systems and better coordination between entities inside the health system and Alameda Hospital as home. He said the local hospital can’t provide all the care residents need and that it’s the board’s job to figure out what services are needed here and make sure they’re provided.
Meyers said the board should conduct an annual assessment to determine the community’s health care needs “with special attention to health equity across all of our multicultural neighbors” and then use the assessment to ensure services are provided somewhere in the countywide system and on the Island when needed.
“Importantly, the board MUST move from the current medical care focus to a community well-being focus – a focus that does not ignore direct medical care needs but seeks opportunities to encourage Alameda’s leaders and community members to support health and well-being efforts,” he said. “(A)nd that should drive the services provided by our hospital AND the health opportunities in our district.”
Additional information is available from the candidates themselves on their websites and from the following articles on The Alamedan.