Guest opinion: Director defends role of health care district
This is to respond to a letter published last week advocating dissolution of the Sequoia Healthcare District, which funds a number of community health-care related programs and grants that directly benefit district residents. In the current fiscal year the district will provide $10.6 million in community health services.
The district's Heart Safe program has provided life-saving defibrillators and cardiac compression devices to schools, public areas and first-responders. During the economic downturn we provided funding to food banks and "soup lines" when private funding could not make up for the increasing gaps. We also fund Meals on Wheels, which provides meals to the elderly or disabled who are unable to prepare a warm, nutritious meal or obtain food on their own. This service currently provides meals to the poorest to some of the wealthiest district residents.
Our chronic disease management program provides education and training for a number of illnesses, keeping residents healthier and sparing health-care dollars by preventing complications of illnesses. The district's Healthy Schools Program has provided more school nurses, health education, counseling and physical education to all school districts within the health-care district. Providing this service to our children is another cost-saving preventative program.
The district also works in conjunction with Sequoia Hospital and Sequoia Hospital Foundation to monitor the needs of district residents with a considerable stake in the new Breast Health Center and plans to implement a case management program designed to keep district residents out of the hospital. The district continues to fund the county clinic as well as surrounding community clinics that serve district residents. This provides access to care and prevents costly use of local emergency rooms that would otherwise be used as a substitute for primary care.
About 51 percent of county revenue goes to jails and courts. There is no guarantee where the current tax dollars collected for the health-care district would go if the district is dissolved. The only thing certain is that money will continue to be collected.
As a registered nurse, I do not view health care, nutrition, or lifesaving medical equipment as "charitable programs." The services are necessary, cost-effective, and generally expected to be available when ultimately all of us require them. Voters now have more control over utilization of tax dollars that go directly to health-care programs within their own district. The board and directors, with the exception of Jack Hickey, constantly assess and evaluate our programs, making necessary changes according to community needs and the many changes taking place in health care. The district once owned the hospital, continues to support it and provides services that every one of us will eventually need.
It saddens me that anyone likely to require health services would so quickly deny those now receiving them. Mr. Hickey is running for an additional seat on the board despite the fact that his current position does not term until 2014, forcing the district to spend $160,000 on what otherwise would have been an uncontested election, only to further his dogmatic and extreme ideology to not pay taxes at all. This is a tragedy when one considers district programs that would have greatly benefitted by what I consider a lot of money. No board member should have the right to force taxpayers to foot the bill for an election just to advance his own political agenda.
Kim Griffin is a registered nurse and president of the Sequoia Healthcare District board of directors.