Should We Abolish Oversight Boards?
East County Californian (2008-08-14) Raymond Lutz
This Page: http://www.copswiki.org/Common/M283
If school boards don’t do their job, kids may be poor readers. When water boards perform poorly, we might have low water pressure. But when a hospital board is out to lunch, patients die.
Our only hospital in the East County, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, is both a public and private operation. The hospital itself is a private concern operated by a board of directors that operate in a veil of secrecy. The Hospital receives the building for $1 per year and is benefiting from a $247 million bond approved in 2006. The Grossmont Healthcare District Board, an elected body that has open meetings and answers to the public, is supposed to oversee the relationship.
The alert sounded by the California Department of Public Health regarding recent deaths at the hospital startled our attention to a festering problem. In this case, it seems the entire information flow from the private hospital board to the district board was inappropriately designed to go through one man, Barry Jantz, Chief Executive Officer of the Grossmont Healthcare District, who also sits on the hospital board. It was his responsibility to inform the district board of the outrageous events occurring at the hospital. That is, if he were actually monitoring the doings of the hospital board at all.
The idea of a private board hiding its problems from the public while accepting millions of taxpayer dollars is a clear example of how these public/private partnerships can go awry. In this case, details of hospital operation and all the information of critical nature were designed to flow through and rely upon the honesty and integrity of one individual. And if that person does not do his job, should we continue to trust him with our lives?
This culture of silence and secrecy is exemplified by the district web site. No notice of special meetings is available, and no agendas or minutes are provided for public review. This, after Jantz said he would correct the problem some months back. Of course, having meetings at 7:30 a.m. makes it inconvenient for most members of the public to do their civic duty to provide citizens’ oversight, another reminder that their goal is obfuscation, not openness.
People push for local control, but here is a example of where the “redundant” California Department of Public Health did the appropriate thing while our local board of our only hospital in the East County was lulled into a deep sleep. My opponent, Assemblymember Joel Anderson, proposed cutting 117 similar boards and commissions to save money in a January 10, 2008, press release. I’m just happy he wasn’t successful at also cutting the “redundant” hospital review board. Redundancy can be a very good thing, particularly when our health and lives are at stake.
In fact, a great many of the boards he wants to eliminate do deal with public health. For example, the Dental Board, the Medical Board of California, Board of Occupational Therapy, the Optometry Board, the Board of Pharmacy, the Physical Therapy Board, the Physician Assistant Committee, the Board of Podiatric Medicine, the Board of Psychology, the Registered Nursing Board, the Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians Board, and the Respiratory Care Board. Anderson says these boards are unnecessary and that we’ll save money, but how much is a life worth?
Even when we consider the non-health related boards, we have to ask if is it appropriate to abolish the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Workers Compensation Appeals Board, Architects Board, Contractors State License Board, Veterinary Medical Board, Building Standards Commission, Integrated Waste Management Board, Reclamation Board, Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreational Commission, or the Public Library Construction and Renovation Board. Our answer is probably a resounding “no.”
He even proposed abolishing the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection as we experience one of the most devastating fire seasons in history and as we rebuild from our own wildfire disasters. This rush to close these boards may save money, but if we go along with Anderson, we’ll end up with no redundancy in oversight, a redundancy which is absolutely necessary when in comes to public health and safety. What is your life worth?
-- Ray Lutz is a candidate for the 77th Assembly District