For more than a decade, every election for members of the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors is about its mission in the past, now and into the future. And this election in 2016 is no different.
Running for re-election are longtime incumbents Kim Griffin and Kathleen Kane. Challenging them are Harland Harrison and Lois Garcia, whose sole philosophy is that the district should not exist. They are following the lead of Jack Hickey who, for 14 years, has made it his mission as an elected member of the board to dissolve the district because it no longer serves its original purpose of ensuring a hospital for the area it serves.
Founded in 1946, the Sequoia Hospital District was formed to build and operate Sequoia Hospital. The hospital’s operation was turned over to Catholic Healthcare West, now Dignity Health, in 1996 and an agreement was reached about a decade later for a new hospital. The district has since been renamed Sequoia Healthcare District and distributes roughly $9 million a year to various organizations its board of directors believe fulfill the health care needs for the people from San Mateo south to Portola Valley. In doing so, the district has remade itself into a governmental foundation of sorts, providing money for programs such as school nurses, community defibrillators and dental assistance.
Throughout it all, Hickey has fought the district at every turn because he believes it should not exist. His cohorts share the philosophy and have relied on it as the sole plank of their platform. But while Hickey has been able to retain his seat, he has been unable to get like-minded people on the board and there has been a certain lack of productivity because of it.
So once again, the crux of this election is not whether the board has been doing a good job in providing money to various health care services, or on what it should focus in the future, but rather if the district should exist. It’s tiring for many, but Hickey is committed to the cause regardless of his lack of popularity with other board members or even members of the community.
Time and again, we have proposed that rather than just being an elected thorn in the district’s side, that he take the argument to the people through an initiative process to see if voters actually want the district dissolved. Voters have yet to be presented with that option, so what we have now is a sort of ad hoc referendum through two candidates who care not what the district does, or will do, but rather what they want it not to do.
Griffin and Kane support the district’s funding of meals on wheels programs, support for Samaritan House’s free clinic in Redwood City and working with Apple Tree Dental to provide services to the poor. It would be nice to get into a discussion about future needs, including the aging population and necessary services for seniors with low incomes as that only seems to growing. However, the discussion remains trenched in the basest of base existential arguments.
Hickey’s tenacity is admirable, if only it seemed to have any modicum of success for more than 10 years. We would rather focus on the merits of the candidate’s ideas about the present and future and determine ways to best provide services to this ever-changing community. That’s why we support Griffin and Kane, who show a real passion for the work they do and are willing to work for progress.