Coast Hospital Popularity Survey

by Malcolm Macdonald, October 19, 2016

The Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) held a special Board of Directors, Finance Committee, and Planning Committee meeting October 12th. The only subject at hand: an August phone survey of 251 likely voters in the hospital district by EMC Market & Opinion Research Services. EMC has offices in Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Columbus, Ohio, Washington, DC, as well as Fernandina Beach, Florida. Jessica Polsky, with a M.A. in social psychology was EMC's point person on the MCDH survey.

Here are the bullet point takeaways from the EMC survey:

1) From the point of view of the public the emergency room (ER) and obstetrics department (OB) are the most important components of the coastal hospital. Approximately two-thirds of those polled strongly oppose closure of OB.

2) Most of those surveyed have a positive opinion about MCDH, although many still see room for improvement to the quality of healthcare provided there.

3) About 60% of the voters polled strongly or somewhat strongly support passage of a bond measure (as large as $50 million) to maintain the hospital and help build a new hospital, which is mandated by January 1, 2030. Only half of the voters surveyed favor passage of a $200 per parcel tax that would raise approx. $2.4 million annually for the hospital. Both the bond measure or the parcel tax would require a two-thirds voter approval for passage.

4) 64% of those polled strongly or somewhat strongly favor modifying the health care district's governance structure so that a new non-profit, public benefit board would oversee the hospital. This plan might generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million annually according to the verbiage of the hospital's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon, though no substantive plans or progress have been made on this matter since the CEO and CFO first brought it up early this year.

The cost of the survey itself to MCDH was $18,700, according to Mr. Edwards. The questions/statements offered up in the survey were not authored by EMC, but by a committee made up of hospital CEO Edwards, new MCDH Board member Steve Lund, and Michael Riemenschneider. He and his partner Shin Green have been contracted by MCDH to explore government obligation (GO) bond possibilities for the coastal health care district. This committee appears to have been hand picked/self-anointed by CEO Edwards. At the time Lund was not yet a MCDH Board of Directors member. Apparently no other Board member, or any member of the Finance or Planning Committees, was deemed worthy of inclusion. Lund had been president of the Hospital Foundation (chief fundraising entity for MCDH) immediately prior to his appointment to serve out the remaining months before the November election after Dr. Kate Rohr's resignation from the MCDH Board. This fall's election will fill three MCDH Board of Director's seats.

An intriguing part of the EMC poll found that just 28% view the hospital's administration in a good or excellent light, 45% thought administration was doing a fair to poor job. 27% did not have an opinion on that issue. The public's opinion of MCDH's Board of Directors found that only 19% perceive the board as doing an excellent or good job, while 41% put their performance in the fair to poor categories. Of course, this was a judgment cast on the Board of Directors as a whole, no polling was taken regarding individual board members. Long time board member Sean Hogan is retiring in November. Tom Birdsell, who has served on the MCDH Board before, during, and now slightly after the hospital went through bankruptcy proceedings is a candidate for re-election. Interim member Steve Lund is also seeking election in November to a full term.

The EMC survey included the public's review of the financial management of the hospital: 20% in the good to excellent range and 52% in the poor to fair range.

Noting the less than favorable polling concerning the hospital's administration, board, and financial management, Planning Committee member Mike Dell'Ara stated, “If they [the public] don't feel good about the administration, the board, and the financial management, they don't feel good about the hospital.”

(Ed note: Besides Lund and Birdsell, Kaye Handley, a “retired investment manager,” and Lucas Campos, a coast hospital pain specialist, are running for the Hospital Board.)

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