Guest Column: Vote for change on Tahoe Forest board | SierraSun.com

Guest Column: Vote for change on Tahoe Forest board

Lawrence A. Danto

Rob Eskridge, who I knew and worked with during my years at Tahoe Forest Hospital, obviously disagrees with the need for change on the hospital board, according to his Sept. 3 letter, “Voters beware — the mudslinging has begun.”

He also seems not to understand the meaning of “mudslinging” and the difference between mudslinging and legitimate appropriate non-personal criticism of hospital board policy and activity — what, for lack of a better term, might be called “gunslinging,” or better, “sharpshooting.”

The fact is, effective local board policy and actions are not largely dependent on understanding the Affordable Care Act or other national health policy. Even so, there are three candidates who do, in fact, understand the evolution of national health care reform better than anyone who has been on the board to date and better than other candidates in the race.

These three candidates — John Falk, Greg Jellenik, and Mark Spohr — are eager to serve. Further, there has been plenty of (missed) opportunity for the current hospital board to have helped North Tahoe patients by reforming hospital policy and measures. It shouldn’t take an Act of Congress to get appropriate policy from our hospital district.

All it should take are well-intended individuals with a sensitivity to our community’s health care needs and the desire to support them — something that has been sorely lacking over the past decade, despite extensive public input.

What is truly crucial for voters to understand in this election is our hospital board must now become proactive in interpreting all pertinent health care policy to provide North Tahoe residents with affordable, essential care that is appropriate to our rural community.

This has been the Tahoe Forest Hospital Board’s real mission all along, and it doesn’t take special talent or education to understand and focus on this mission. But, it does take appropriate vision, self presence and determination. It must be firmly stated: Quality of care in the Tahoe Forest Hospital District is not an issue, as our North Tahoe health care professionals have always provided the very best.

Over the past decade, the hospital board has simply failed in its duty to carry out its mission by sanctioning the growth of an excessive and grotesquely expensive hospital administration; staging and controlling economic competition between our fine but small professional staff; misinterpreting the true health care needs of our community; and fostering an exorbitant building and bond policy.

As a result, the cost of care at Tahoe Forest Hospital is far too high, and far too many local residents (hospital employees included) are forced outside our community for routine and essential health care services.

Tahoe Forest Hospital is a small public county/district critical access facility — not a personal private profit center. Its singular purpose is to provide affordable essential rural health care to North Tahoe residents.

Be sure you’re voting for change.

Lawrence A. Danto, MD, has been a North Tahoe resident since 1978 and a Tahoe Forest Hospital staff member from 2003-08.