Jensen selected for hospital board seat

Jensen selected for hospital board seat

Michele Ellson

Contributed photo.

The third time proved to be the charm for Tracy Jensen, who was appointed Wednesday to an open seat on the Alameda Health Care District Board.

Jensen bested three other applicants for the seat, which Stewart Chen vacated after earning a two-year term on the City Council. Her new dais-mates voted 4-0 to select her to complete Chen’s hospital board term after ranking the candidates.

“I’ve wanted to do this since I moved back to Alameda in 2001,” Jensen said.

Board members cited her clear desire to serve on the board and her service to the community as reasons why they wished to grant her the seat. Jensen served eight years on Alameda’s Board of Education and serves on the board of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

“I picked Tracy Jensen as number one because of her long-term commitment to this community,” said board member Robert Deutsch, who said her continued efforts to earn a seat on the board demonstrated “tenacity and commitment.” Her appointment marks the sixth time since 2006 that the board has had to fill a seat mid-term.

Jensen first sought a board seat when the city’s health care district was established in 2001, and she ran for a seat again this past November. During her career she helped write health care regulations for the state of Maryland and an earlier version of health care reform legislation for the federal government. She has been Oakland’s senior services administrator since 2000.

Jensen also offered a passionate defense of the hospital, which she credited with saving her when, at 17, she was hit by a truck while cycling over the Bay Farm Island bridge.

“I might not have survived if it wasn’t here,” she said. “This hospital saved my life.”

Other candidates for the job included Terrie Kurrasch, who has more than three decades of experience as a senior strategic and facilities planner; Lynn Bratchett, who has worked as a nurse for 30 years and is an instructor at Merritt College; and Shubha Fanse, a retired information technology professional who has long served on the local League of Women Voters board and who cited her Asian background as a potential asset to the board, as it attempts to draw more of Alameda’s Asian residents as patients.

Board President Jordan Battani asked that they all consider working to support the hospital in other capacities. Kurrasch just joined the Alameda Hospital Foundation board and both she and Fanse are on the hospital’s community relations committee.

Board members who interviewed the candidates asked them to identify the biggest challenges facing Alameda Hospital and to offer ideas for addressing them. Most said money is the hospital’s biggest challenge, followed by implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Jensen, who credited the hospital’s managers with adding new services that are helping to boost its bottom line, said it could become a magnet for the region and gain higher federal reimbursements by demonstrating that it provides quality care.

Bratchett, who was cited as a second place choice by two of the four board members, suggested the hospital look to staffers for suggestions on cutting costs and to the Island’s seniors to provide services that could include in-home care and transportation. Kurrasch suggested the hospital conduct targeted outreach to people who will be able to sign up for insurance under Obamacare.

The interviews turned into a referendum of sorts on the hospital’s existence, with board member Elliott Gorelick asking candidates to offer evidence showing Alameda Hospital – which he has said he thinks should be shut down – is better than off-Island alternatives and Deutsch seeking confirmation that candidates would work to keep it open. Ultimately, though, both men ranked the candidates in the same order, prompting a quip from Gorelick and laughter in the packed hospital conference room where the interviews were held.

If the four members of the board had deadlocked on a candidate, the City Council – three of whose members have served on the hospital board – would have been called upon to choose a new board member, Battani said.

Jensen will serve as board secretary while Gorelick was chosen as treasurer during an electoral process conducted after Jensen was selected and sworn in as a board member. J Michael McCormick will serve as board president, with Battani handing over the gavel after six years in that role.

She’ll need to run for re-election when her term expires.

Related: Four vying for hospital board seat