Four vie for pair of health dist. seats

By Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat October 12, 2012 12:10 pm

Four candidates are seeking the two open seats available on the Mark Twain Health Care District board in the Nov. 6 election.

Ken McInturf has been on the board since 2001 and now serves as its treasurer. Joining him in the race this year are George Fry, of Copperopolis, and Jerry Lucas and Randy Smart, both of Murphys.


The newcomers are not strangers to the county’s health care system. 

Fry regularly attends board meetings. Lucas has volunteered with the nonprofit foundation that supports Mark Twain St. Joseph’s Hospital and his wife, Peggy, is the foundation’s executive director. Smart is a physician who works in the hospital system and his mother, Colleen Smart, was a long-time board member until she decided not to seek re-election this fall.

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.

The district formed a partnership with St. Joseph’s Regional Healthcare System in Stockton in 1990, as it was becoming difficult for the small San Andreas hospital to operate independently. The partnership became known as the Mark Twain St. Joseph’s Healthcare Corp. 

The St. Joseph’s system was absorbed in 1997 by Catholic Healthcare West, which changed its name about two months ago to Dignity Health. Since that acquisition, CHW/Dignity Health has provided the hospital CEO, chief financial officer and management of day-to-day operations.

The district and its arrangements with Dignity Health came under heavy criticism in a March grand jury report that found the county’s residents “lost confidence in the healthcare provided in the county” during a particularly turbulent time last year. 

Ten physicians reportedly left employment or cut other ties to the hospital citing conflicts with management and CEO Feliciano Jiron and Dr. Rafael Rosado, who had been overseeing the county’s five family medical center clinics.

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 board addressed a complaint about minimal public notice of board meetings by posting them in the 24-hour emergency room, county library, the hospital’s electronic reader board. 

The district moved into an office separate from the hospital and hired a part-time CEO.