Smart, McInturf lead in health care race

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

Murphys physician Randy Smart and incumbent Kenneth McInturf appeared Tuesday night to be headed to new four-year terms on the Mark Twain Health Care District.

Smart led all vote-getters with 9,636 votes (39.7 percent) followed by McInturf with 6,490 (26.7 percent) in a four-man race for two open seats, according to Elections Office unofficial results. Jerry Lucas, who previously ran unsuccessfully in 2010, trailed with 4,695 votes (19.4 percent), as did Calaveras County Office of Education Trustee George Fry with 3,395 (14.0 percent).

The race represented the only countywide office on Tuesday's ballot for Calaveras voters.

The board is made up of five Calaveras County citizens elected to manage an annual budget of about $1 million in taxpayer funds that go toward the health care system managed by San Francisco-based nonprofit Dignity Health.

It came to the forefront of public attention after a March grand jury report earlier this year charged the public had "lost confidence in the healthcare provided in the county." That report came in the wake of a messy exit by former hospital CEO Feliciano Jiron, who resigned a year earlier and took a new job in his native New Mexico, after about 10 physicians chose to drop their association with Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital.

The grand jury's findings also included a lack of interest in board elections, leading to a lack of turnover across decades for many seats.

The district board issued a response in June that any loss of public confidence came from poor perception rather than performance. Board term limits are not permitted by law, the response stated. Furthermore, the response stated the district will voluntarily submit to the recommendation of providing annual reports on the state of the county's health care to the Board of Supervisors.

The heavy criticism did not appear to have a negative impact on incumbent McInturf, who has served on the board since 2001 and is now the board's treasurer.

There were indications it was a low-information race for voters.

Joe Ludlow, 75, of Vallecito, said he chose McInturf and Lucas on his ballot.

"Just guessed," Ludlow said.

Don Marshall, 48, of Vallecito, also selected McInturf as well as Fry.

"I think that's the only other person I knew," Marshall said of Fry.

Smart, who is succeeding his mother Colleen, a long-time board member who chose to retire at the end of this term, is excited about taking a seat on the oft-overlooked board.

It faces challenges including a likely vote next year on renewing the lease with Dignity Health scheduled to expire in 2019 and developing a larger base of doctors to serve the population.

"I've got a whole lot of people to thank and a whole lot of work to do," Smart said. "We really need to have … a good primary care network in this county."

Smart said he hopes improved access to regional partnerships and telehealth networks will raise the standard of care in the county. He said he met with a foundation in Sacramento Monday about grant opportunities for Calaveras County's health care needs.

"I don't think our health care leaders have really entered into that very much and I'm excited to help him do that," Smart said.

Contact Sean Janssen at sjanssen@uniondemocrat.com or 890-7741.

11883806
The Union Democrat
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