Health Care District Board candidate Tracy Jensen
Health Care District Board candidate Tracy Jensen
Senior services program analyst
For more than 20 years I have worked for federal, state and city governments. I am a public servant by profession, and by election. In the 1990s after graduate school I worked for the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington DC, researching and writing health care policies. While in Washington I helped to develop the Clinton health care reform proposal, and I worked on “reinventing government” in Vice President Gore’s office.
I came home to Alameda in 2000 and took a job with the City of Oakland as an advocate for seniors. In 2005 I was honored by the Alameda County Public Health Department for improving seniors’ and youth access to nutrition and physical activity. I was a charter member of the Alameda County Long Term Care Steering Committee, which developed and implemented the “Network of Care” website for seniors and caregivers. Finally, my work for 8 years as a Trustee for the Alameda Unified School District demonstrates my commitment to this community.
What is your vision for the health care district and what are the key steps you would take to implement it during your four-year term, if elected?
Health Care programs and services in this country are in transition for a number of reasons. The federal Affordable Care Act promises to improve the availability and affordability of services for many individuals and families, but it also changes the way that institutions like the Alameda Health Care District will do business in the future. I envision the Alameda Health Care District as a Center of Excellence with services that are recognized by patients and providers. One opportunity that the Alameda Health Care District may take advantage of is the expansion of federal coverage for preventive care.
If elected, I would want to see the Health Care District respond to this change by developing a high quality menu of preventive services and marketing those services to individuals, families and to local health care providers. In addition to the changes in the health care law, there are opportunities for the Health Care District right here on the Island. The opening of a Veterans Administration clinic at Alameda Point means that there will be active and retired service personnel returning to Alameda for health care for the first time in more than 15 years. If elected I will encourage the Alameda Health Care District to develop relationships with the VA clinic and its providers and encourage them to utilize our facilities for certain services.
What are the most significant challenges facing Alameda Hospital at this moment?
The most significant challenges facing Alameda Hospital, and the Alameda Health Care District, are the changing demographics of Alameda and the East Bay, and the consolidation of health care services by large non-profit health care organizations. Individual physician practices are an anomaly, and most doctors are part of large multi-specialty group practices. It is a challenge for smaller hospitals like ours to attract these group practices because of the competition from large medical centers and managed care organizations. The challenge will be for Alameda Hospital to develop relationships with group practices and with the large medical centers, by providing unique and specialized services and/or becoming a Center of Excellence.
Should Alameda Hospital remain open? Why or why not?
In 2002 Alameda voters expressed support for a local hospital. When I talk to Alameda residents, the majority of them believe that the hospital provides value to our community. Like Children’s Hospital and Washington Hospital, Alameda Hospital serves a community need. Yes, the hospital should stay open as long as the community supports it and it can continue to provide necessary services. Our hospital has been and can continue to be the most responsive health care provider in Alameda. I believe it should remain open as long as it is responsive, solvent, and integral to Alameda.
If the hospital closed, what would you do with the parcel tax money the district collects and what if any services should the health care district continue to provide?
The fact is the Alameda Health Care District is not entirely and completely funded by the parcel tax. That is what the voters of Alameda supported and that is the mandate for the Health Care District Board. The Hospital management has developed new programs and services to attract both patients and physicians. Market changes have been identified and responded to by the Board of Directors and the hospital staff. So I don’t think it is likely that the Hospital will be closed anytime soon and if it were there are other programs and services that could eventually make it possible for the Health Care district to remain solvent even without the parcel tax revenue.
How would you fund seismic upgrades that are required under state law?
The Health Care District has developed and funded a plan to transition the services in the seismically unsafe wing of the hospital. This will allow for an extension of the deadline for the remaining seismic construction. The new deadline will give the Health Care District Board and hospital staff an opportunity to identify funding options, which may include a bond – as was done for the Washington Hospital seismic work, or to expand the capital improvement funds through other means.
What kind of medical services do you believe Alamedans need on-Island?
I believe that Alameda residents want and need emergency services, preventive services, and pediatric services. Acute care in-patient services are important to a mid-sized city like Alameda, but the proximity of large multi-specialty medical centers makes it difficult for Alameda Hospital to be competitive in that area.
What do you think is the role of the board in overseeing the hospital? What would you improve about how the board carries out its work and/or works together with hospital leaders?
The role of the Board is to ensure that the hospital is meeting its fiscal, legal and strategic goals. The Alameda Health Care District Board has successfully addressed the challenges of the health care industry’s consolidation by diversifying and by expanding the services that it does well. In my view a board of directors works together most effectively when members come together with the intention of leading the organization, rather than changing it. Leadership means identifying and supporting the things that are working well, while responding to external market challenges and recognizing the impact of changing circumstances. I would not presume to “improve” the board’s relationships with each other or with the hospital management without a clear vision of the strategy for the future.
How would you advise the hospital’s leadership to improve operations, financial stability, and patient satisfaction at the hospital?
The Alameda Hospital management team has done a number of things in the past several years to ensure the institution’s solvency. The opening of the Wound Care Center, the attention to urgent and emergency services including stroke treatment, and the community outreach activities are making the hospital more relevant and effective. The hospital has been awarded for quality of care by the American College of Cardiology and through certification as a primary stroke center by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation. If I’m elected to the board the Hospital will continue to identify the high-quality health care services that it can provide effectively.
There is another indicator of satisfaction that is also being done well at Alameda Hospital, union negotiations and staff satisfaction. The fact that the Alameda Hospital management team was able to negotiate a three-year contract with nurses – represented by the California Nurses Association – without contention and with no intervening labor challenges, demonstrates a level of staff satisfaction that is increasingly uncommon in public agencies.
What are the near- and long-term implications of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (“Obamacare”) for reimbursements and revenues at Alameda Hospital? What changes (if any) will be needed for the hospital to adapt to this law?
The Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) establishes value based purchasing requirements for the Medicare program. These requirements, which are also being adopted by private health insurance providers, will identify and reward high quality care providers. In the longer term, Alameda Hospital can take advantage of the ACA provision that gives people with health insurance free preventive services. This can be a gateway for families to develop a long-term relationship with Alameda Health Care District services. Alameda Hospital’s inpatient and outpatient services, community outreach programs, and quality services give our community resource the ideal opportunity to respond to the new law.