Healthcare district board increases stipends to maximum under law
Last updated 12/17/2009 at Noon
eeting, directors of the Fallbrook Healthcare District voted 3-2 to increase board stipends from the previously allowed $100 per month to a maximum of $500 per month, the ceiling permitted under California Health & Safety Code 32103.
Director Milt Davies, who was elected board president for 2010 at the meeting, explained he felt a change was necessary because he “wants to change the direction of the board” in order to plan for a new hospital in Fallbrook’s future.
“We will be pressing this board into more committee work,” said Davies. “I’m hoping to have a lot more meetings and much more involved board. I want to change this from a maintenance board to an action board.”
With a 44-year background as a firefighter/paramedic in the Fallbrook community, Davies said he is concerned about the future of healthcare resources when the lease with Community Health Systems expires in 20 years. CHS is 10 years into a 30-year lease with the healthcare district to operate Fallbrook Hospital and the skilled nursing facility.
“[The healthcare district] has not done a good job of differentiating from the hospital,” said Davies. “We want to do what it takes to make CHS happy. If they’re not, they’ll leave and we’ll have a hospital to run.”
“I am very worried about our ability to deliver emergency care and keep district staffing at the right level if [CHS] goes away,” said Davies. “It could completely change the quality of life for the people of Fallbrook.”
Davies explained that if paramedics have to transport all emergency care patients to hospitals out of town, it will undoubtedly affect incident response times.
“[Medical transport] trips would then become three hours,” said Davies. “It would tie up ambulances. There would be no way to deliver a patient after that without calling in a unit from another area.”
Davies said he is trying to make preparations to “pave the way” for a new facility, by at least purchasing some ground for a new or enlarged hospital facility.
“We have to look at the trends of where our senior society healthcare needs are going,” he explained. “We’ve got a bunch of silver-haired people that live here and I put myself in that category.” Davies explained that he will champion more benefits for the growing senior population. Fellow director Barbara Mroz agreed.
“I’m looking for things to benefit our seniors,” said Mroz. “That’s where the wisdom and strength is. These people have paid their dues.”
Davies said consideration regarding a stipend increase had been in the works “for about two months.”
The motion to approve the increase was made by Barbara Mroz with Davies and Lynette Shumway joining her in a majority vote. Directors Gordon Tinker and Hollis Moyse voted against the increase.
“I don’t think we need it,” said Tinker, who has served on the board for four years. “Right now there is a lot of angst over public agencies and compensation amounts.” Tinker said he is “concerned” because of a situation that occurred in 2004 regarding stipends on the healthcare district board that caused public discontent and led to an election campaign that promoted a need for change. “I’m afraid we might be putting our foot in the same door again,” said Tinker.
Davies said it was his understanding that the previous problem involved health benefits that board members were given, which do not exist today.
“We’re not the board that was here ten years ago,” said Davies. “We’re going to ramp [the work of the board members] up.”
Davies, who is retired, said he gives half of his monthly stipend to a local food pantry as a donation, but said others’ situation may be different.
“Others might need [the money] because they have to take time off their jobs to attend meetings and functions,” he said.
The board stipend prior to the vote was set at a maximum of $100 per month, designed to cover the normal monthly board meeting. As a result of the upgrade, directors will now be eligible to receive up to $500 per month for attending approved meetings, events, workshops, conferences, reviewing grant applications and making site visits to grant applicants. Appropriate paperwork must be submitted for approval before stipends will be paid.
Public discontent was quick to show at the meeting when Dr. Sally Wolf, who operates a clinical counseling practice locally, addressed the board.
“I don’t believe [the increase] is a fiscally sound proposition,” said Wolf. “I think if a board member is having difficulty maintaining their commitment to board service due to a lack of increased stipend, it is a personal financial issue. Each board member has agreed to perform their duties at the current level of stipend reimbursement. I feel each person should honor that agreement.”
Mroz, with a background in managed care contracting, underscored that things are going to change on the healthcare district board, with more focus placed on long-range planning for the future.
“What were past board members doing when they weren’t looking to the future?” asked Mroz. “Milt will be making more demands on the board members and I feel it’s time. We are going to have a very exciting year ahead.”
Mroz said she felt the stipend increase was fair, given the new direction. “It is not uncommon for this amount to be paid in board stipends. We researched this and felt we needed to bring our stipend up to the same level as others.”
Shumway refused to comment on the matter.
Moyse, who is in his third year of a four-year term, said he thought Mroz and Shumway might have been unaware of the time commitment involved in serving in a board position.
“I think [Mroz and Shumway] are relatively new to board service and perhaps not aware of the requirements when they took the job,” said Moyse. “I think they were kind of blindsided.”
Moyse, who serves as treasurer of the board, says it has required about 20 hours of his time each month. Tinker said ten hours per month best fits his estimate. Both men indicated that they are very familiar with board service and its requirements.
Moyse said he considers his work on the healthcare district board to be community service.
“The community of Fallbrook is a very generous, giving community and I feel that in comparison with other volunteers, such as those that give their time to the Fallbrook Hospital Auxiliary and Angel Shop, who give many more hours than we give, our existing compensation was most generous.”
“Milt respects Gordon Tinker and Hollis Moyse for their expertise, as do I, but it’s time to stir it up a little bit,” said Mroz. “Milt is dynamic and with that we are going to have a very successful year. Gordon has been great, but I feel we should give Milt a chance.”
Mroz originally proposed the stipend increase at the November 11 meeting of the board, at which time Moyse said an increase was not provided for in the district’s 2009-2010 budget. This year’s budget had to be formulated with a shortfall due to Proposition 1A, which permits the state to borrow $129,280 from district coffers in 2010.
“The state is required to pay that money back within three years, by June 2013, at a stipulated interest rate of two percent,” said Vi Dupre, district administrator.
Funding for the healthcare district comes from local property tax revenues, hence the strong feelings on the stipend issue.
“Fallbrook Healthcare District events call for each of us to donate our time to insure their success and assure a thriving community,” said Wolf. “To imagine that in order to have board members attend or participate, they must be paid, I believe takes way from the spirit and intent of service this board has maintained.”
Davies will assume the role of president of the board on January 1, 2010 along with Mroz as vice president and Shumway, secretary. Moyse will continue as treasurer.
To comment on this story online, visit http://www.thevillagenews.com.