Abridged Washington Hospital Board Candidate Debate

I stayed late at work today to blog the League of Women Voters candidate forum for Washington Hospital. This was supposed to be a live blogging exercise, but I had some technical and gastric difficulties — and I took a quick peek at the Cowboys-Eagles game — so instead this is a wrap up.

Quick background, the race got more interesting when one of the candidates, Dr. Evelyn Li, spearheaded a movie that is very critical of the hospital. And last week, Washington CEO Nancy Farber showed the board of trustees security photos taken at a rally outside the hospital last month, which both Li and the other challenger Ravi Johal attended.

The two incumbents, Pat Danielson and Bill Nicholson, support the hospital administration in the face of the movie and didn’t exactly rush to defend Johal when Farber insinuated that he had a link to Li by saying he was at the same rally as her. Drama.

I’m leaving out a few questions and giving partial reactions to questions about Medicare reimbursements and concerns about the hospital not providing flu shots one year. Sorry, but I’m doing this on my own time/dime.

Opening statements:

Pat Danielson: You are Washington Hospital and so is she. She mentions the hospital’s “Patient-first ethic.” That is the hospital’s motto. If last week’s board meeting is any indication, board members and administrators use it with the same frequency that teenagers say “like” and “you know,” and Elmer Fudd says “wascally wabbit.”

Bill Nicholson: Touts experience. He was first elected in 1998. He’s a cardiologist who practices at the hospital, and his wife practices there too. Says he provides strong steady leadership.

Ravi Johal: He’s a lawyer, and possibly a well-connected one, because he’s just rattled off a long list of endorsements, including ones from John Dutra, Alberto Torrico, and at least 4/5ths of the Fremont City Council.

Let’s fast-forward to the movie, “Life for Sale.” Evelyn Li didn’t show up for the debate.

Johal: He didn’t take a stand on it. Says there are two sides to every story and the community should be left to decide the merit of Li’s allegations.

Danielson: She didn’t see it, but she was educated about it at the recent board meeting, which btw, I watched on tape. She says no one should be afraid to go to Washington for treatment.

Nicholson: He mentions the patient-first ethic. The movie is an “outrageous attack on nurses and doctors of Washington Hospital,” he said. He said it’s incorrect on almost every count.

Fast Foward again: Is CEO Nancy Farber’s $580 + bonus annual salary justified?

Nicholson: He said that people in health care are paid well and that the board’s policy is that Farber should be in the 65th percentile of CEO’s in her peer group. He’s comfortable that that is the case.

Johal: He hedges: Farber’s salary, “bothers the community to some extent and it doesn’t bother the community to some extent,” he said. Johal says he will hold everybody accountable.

Danielson: Big defense of Farber. “She is worth every single penny she earns, and the board supports her entirely.”

Question is why the hospital doesn’t automatically provide background info for items on board agenda.

Danielson: She says all the information is available if people ask for it and that the hospital does a good job of televising meetings.

Nicholson: Makes similar statement

Johal: Says transparency should be board’s number one goal, but doesn’t actually say if he thinks they aren’t being transparent. Does say they have too many closed-door meetings. He says they should all be public, so I guess he’s saying they aren’t transparent enough.

Question is What is the role of the board member and to define health care

Danielson: She mentions the patient-first ethic and then says the hospital is guided by the patient-first ethic.

Nicholson: Mentions the goal of providing the best service the hospital can afford. Says board has worked to increase the number of physicians in the health care district.

Johal: He wants every person to get the best health care.

Question is why did Washington get a less than favorable review on women’s health in its accreditation report. The obvious answer is that Fremont is the healthiest city for men, not women. Silly.

Danielson: Doesn’t seem like she was aware of the stated review. She touts the new women’s health center. She says it’s a warm-feeling place.

Nicholson: He says the issue at hand was really about record keeping for maintaining equipment and that the issue has been resolved. He also said the hospital was among the first to get new and improved mammogram equipment.

Johal: He’s a strong supporter of women’s health care rights. He’ll look into the purported low score.

Closing statements:

Johal: Thanks people and says he will be an independent voice and bring accountability and transparency. He will be a voice of the people.

Nicholson: He mentions the patient-first ethic and goes on to say that the board is good because it honors the patient-first ethic. Says Johal and Li don’t have his experience and expertise.

Danielson: The present board is “a well-honed, hard questioning team adhering to the patient-first ethic.”

Miscellaneous: On controlling costs, Nicholson said there wasn’t much the hospital could do about it, Johal said he could use his legal background to take advantage of programs for getting reimbursements and Danielson stressed continued education of residents and mentioned a mobile health van the hospital had.

On declining Medicare and Medicare reimbursements, Nicholson said the expertise of the hospital administration gives Washington an edge. I didn’t have a chance to catch what the other two said.

On a question about the lack of flu shots one year, Johal said that shouldn’t have been the case, Danielson rattled off several free services the hospital has provided, and Nicholson complimented Danielson’s recall and said the year in question was a tough one for the flu vaccine. I left out a few patient-first ethic comments, but they weren’t critical.

And that’s that. It’s after 10 p.m., so time for me to drive home in adherence, to the music-first ethic, which means flipping through my iPod and hoping I don’t veer out out of my lane. Stay off NB I-880 till 11 p.m. if you want to play it safe. I’ll try to blog the entire Fremont mayor and council forums next week.

Matt Artz