By Donna Westfall – July 17, 2018 – The issue of quality healthcare at affordable prices is paramount to the future of our community. Without quality healthcare, our community is destined to wallow in a sea of mediocrity. Some in our community would rather drive or fly outside the community rather than enter the doors of Sutter Coast hospital.
Recently, at a Healthcare District Board (HCB) public meeting, Dr. Greg Duncan, Chairman, asked about a letter that the County had sent to Assemblyman Jim Wood requesting help with mitigating four core issues. The letter was dated December 12, 2017. A copy of the four points are as follows:
- Sutter’s exorbitant charges as compared to nearby hospitals;
- Sutter’s out of “network” contract with EmCare/Envision providing physician staffing for the Sutter Coast Hospital emergency room;
- Sutter’s lack of public disclosure, closed meetings, and refusal to release financial and meeting records when requested by Del Norte County and the City of Crescent City;
- Sutter’s tax exempt status as a non-profit operating for public benefit.
The HCB is called a 2 x 2 x 2 because there are two members from the Board of Supervisors: Roger Gitlin and Lori Cowan. There are two members from the Crescent City Council, Blake Inscore and Heidi Kime; and there are two members from the Del Norte County Healthcare District; Greg Duncan and Dwayne Reichlin.
At both the January and February 2018 meetings of the HDB there was no official response from Asssemblyman Wood. So, the HCB spent 90 minutes discussing on what to do next and decided in a unanimous vote to send another letter.
Supervisor Lori Cowan was ill and did not attend the February meeting, but when she found out about the vote, she called Dr. Greg Duncan to let him know a response had been received on January 5th.
Regrettably, this information was never shared with the rest of the HCB. Ms.Cowan had knowledge of this fact. Chris Howard knew about it. They both knew about it on January 5, 2018. Why wasn’t anything discussed with the HCB board members?
When Supervisor/HCB member Roger Gitlin asked Board of Supervisors (BOS) Chairman, Chris Howard to explain the absence of this information to the HCD members, his inquiry was met with vitriol, disgust and hostility. Here’s a copy of Howard’s response:
- On Mar 6, 2018 11:38 AM, “Chris Howard” wrote:
“Supervisor. Get you facts straight before you send out an email of this nature. I will expect an apology from you Supervisor.
Your continued rhetoric undermines the Board and the “True” efforts of those advocating for affordable Healthcare in this community, of which many of those individuals are copied on this email. They have been at this much longer than you.
Don’t make an issue where there is no issue for your self serving purposes, like many saw demonstrated at the Ribbon Cutting at Sutter Coasts Infusion Center. If you would like to resign from the Healthcare District 2×2, I will be more than happy to take your place.
I have a call with Dr. Duncan to discuss, but it will certainly not be with a Supervisor that continues to grandstand, which you have clearly demonstrated here before securing the facts.”
This would almost be funny if it wasn’t such a serious issue. For months now, the public has been hearing Chairman Howard speak out of both sides of his face where he complains that Sup. Gitlin and Sup. Berkowitz don’t participate on other committee assignments creating more workload for the rest of the Board. How ironic. And yet here we go again, reading in black in white, Howard’s offer to have Gitlin resign from the HCB!
Gitlin has committeed no official wrongdoing. He goes to meetings prepared and ready to serve and ask the hard and sometimes difficult questions… sometimes posing as inconvenient truths. When Gitlin sees blatant bias directed towards him, it’s obvious his opinions are not being embraced and respected. How can healthy discussions or consensus take place when board members are discouraged from sharing their thoughts and opinions?
Bottom line; Assemblyman Wood, responded on January 5th. He was willing to meet with members of the HCB. However, there are three questions that come to mind:
1.) Why didn’t Cowan and Howard disclose Assemblyman Wood’s response? Was it a secret?
2.) When a meeting was to take place, BOS Chairman, Chris Howard, inserted himself as one of the participants of the meeting with Wood. Howard is not on the Healthcare District Board! Where does he come off inserting himself in that meeting? That’s not the role of the Chairman according to the rules of the Del Norte Administrative manual.
3.) Why were Dr. Duncan and Dwayne Reichlin not invited to attend that meeting with Assemblyman Wood?
When any board member asks legitimate questions, they deserve a legitimate answer.
How many more times must we ask and demand that our elected officials stop already with the petty, juvenile, hi-school antics and start working for the greater good of Del Norte County?
This is just one more reason to support the recall of Sup. Lori Cowan. It appears she is working against us.