Odd twist in Sequoia Healthcare District race
• Two incumbents seek re-election,while a third runs to shut the district down.
The Sequoia Healthcare District elections resemble a game of musical chairs this year. Director Jack Hickey, whose third term wouldn't expire until 2014, is still running for one of two open seats on the five-member board, challenging incumbents Kathleen Kane and Kim Griffin, whose terms really do expire this year.
"I deliberately forced this election by filing for this 4 year seat," Mr. Hickey announced on his website. Just as unusual is his longtime goal to dissolve the health-care district. Established in 1946 to run a hospital, the district changed missions in 1996 after selling Sequoia Hospital. It still collects property taxes, but now uses the funds to support nonprofits — and that means the district has outlived its utility, according to Mr. Hickey.
With a $13.8 million budget for 2012-13, the district spends $10 million for community programs such as school health services, the county's North Fair Oaks Clinic and the San Francisco State University/Canada College nursing program, according to a report posted on the district's website.
With administrative costs at an estimated $600,000, and $160,000 paying for the November 2012 election, the district's expenses are expected to outpace its income by $380,000.
Mr. Hickey has challenged the district's fiscal responsibility, while Ms. Kane and Ms. Griffin seem to think it's on the right track.
Ms. Griffin is finishing out her first four-year term on the board. She parlayed an associate's degree in nursing from Lincoln Land Community College into work as a registered nurse. Specializing in oncology and cardiology, she worked at Stanford University Medical Center for 15 years before moving on to Children's Cardiology of the Bay Area.
"I ran for the district board because my experience as a nurse taught me how important community health resources are and I believe it is important for direct caregivers to be involved in governance of those resources."
Why a second term? Ms. Griffin said she's enthusiastic about the district's programs. "For example, as a cardiac nurse currently taking care of children and young adults with congenital heart disease you can imagine why I find the value in the district's Heart Safe Program, which provides defibrillators and cardiac compression devices," she said. "This is the most up-to-date equipment that has already saved lives. Increasing the survival of cardiac arrest patients alone makes all the hard work on the board worth it."
An upcoming initiative coordinated with the Sequoia Hospital Foundation aims to develop a case management program designed to keep patients out of the hospital, she said.
So Ms. Griffin finds it rewarding to help deliver health services to her community, but why should voters give her a second term? "I have always had to live within a budget, my medical office is run on a tight budget, and I take my fiduciary responsibility on the board seriously," she answered. "But I think if I had to give just one reason to vote for me it would be because I am a patient advocate with a high standard of care. I know that offering anything less is unethical on my part as a health-care provider. It is my hope that district residents see the value in all the services we support since they benefit everyone."
Mr. Hickey acquired instrumentation expertise while serving a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy. According to his biography, he went on to register 28 patents as a researcher and electronics engineer.
Mr. Hickey said this election is not about "another term. It is a poll of voters. When I receive substantially more votes than either of the incumbents, it will be a clear mandate for dissolution. I will take that mandate to my board, hopefully with a large number of my constituents, and agencies which would benefit from dissolution, such as schools, fire districts, etc. in attendance, to persuade them to do the right thing. If that fails, I will seek one of those agencies to initiate the process of dissolution."
That's plan A and plan B. Plan C, what Mr. Hickey termed his "last resort," would be dissolving the district in the same way it was created — petitioning to get the issue on the ballot and in front of voters. "With a large plurality of the vote, gathering signatures for those petitions should not be a problem," he said.
Ms. Kane has served on the health-care district board for 20 years . Her educational background includes a bachelor's degree in organizational development from the University of San Francisco and certification as a surgical technician through the Stanford University Medical Center. She said she currently works as a human resources consultant, drawing upon more than 40 years of experience "in all facets of health care, including vice president of human resources of a major San Francisco medical center.
"I am dedicated to improving the health of our community and fiscally responsible by guaranteeing all tax revenues are spent on health care and wellness services."
Ms. Kane appears to be seeking re-election to continue supporting the district's programs. "I believe the district meets many unmet health issues in our community," she said, citing as examples as the Samaritan House free health clinic and the Children's Health Initiative that provides school nurses, counseling services and physical education programs for each school within the district. "None (of these programs) would be in existence without Sequoia Healthcare District. One hundred percent of the taxes we collect go back to health programs; none goes to operations."