Measure I Fails - What Next?

As reported today in The Californian, Measure I, the $485 million bond initiative for Valley Health System is on the brink of defeat. A Va...

As reported today in The Californian, Measure I, the $485 million bond initiative for Valley Health System is on the brink of defeat. A Valley Health System board member was quoted in the article as conceding defeat.

But the question I have now is "Where do we go from here?"

That question was also asked in the article...
William Cherry, a Valley Health System director, recently said officials hadn't considered what they'd do if the bond failed. It's possible, he said, that the district could continue with measured growth, but more likely, the hospitals will have to cut services ---- possibly emergency room care, which is the most expensive division in medical centers.
I got together with Eric Madrid, a writer here on Menifee 24/7, as well as a medical doctor with a practice in Temecula as a family physician, to discuss some of the issues surrounding Menifee Valley Medical Center, and what should be done. Below is a diatribe we put together...

Steve: Measure I isn't the first bond measure that Valley Health System put before us. Lately it seems they put bond measures on the ballot every year or two. The problem I see isn't that it doesn't have state-of-the-art facilities, but that we receive bad service from its staff, whether it's no service, rude service, or feeling like no one cares. When you have a medical problem, all you want is prompt attention and someone who cares. How is another tax hike going to force the staff to be more friendly and attentive?

Eric: In my opinon, Valley Health may be in trouble and are looking for community bailout. Currently, many Menifee Valley residents go to Southwest Healthcare's hospitals. These include Rancho Springs and Inland Valley. Both of these hospitals are profitable and from what I know, none are asking for money. Also, it has been reported recently in the paper that a new hospital, backed by community physicians, is being planned for the Menifee Valley area. This hospital will be off Antelope road, between Scott and Clinton Keith. It is my opinion that Valley Health is feeling some pressure of potential competition and as a result is asking for tax payers to help.

Steve: I think one reason why this measure failed is because the amount of money involved was enormous, while voters living in the health district are spread across a wide area. It wasn't just $485 million we were talking about, but nearly double that when you factor in the interest payments on the bonds. That's nearly $1 BILLION! Why should residents of Menifee pay even more taxes to fund hospital renovations in Hemet and Moreno Valley? The same is true for Moreno Valley residents being asked to pay for renovations in Menifee.

Eric: Hemet Valley, Menifee Valley, and Moreno Valley hospitals have 519 beds between them. Menifee Valley Hospital only 84 beds. The price tag they are asking for is almost $1 million per hospital bed. If you consider the higher amount of $1 billion, we are pushing $2 million per bed! This is an amazingly ridiculous amount. Furthermore, the fact that Menifee has newer and more expensive homes than Hemet and Moreno Valley makes me think that we are going to be paying a higher share of the taxes than those in Hemet and Moreno Valley, where 435 or the 519 hospital beds are located.

Steve: $485 million is an amazing price. If the hospital is that much in the red, it is basically bankrupt. From what I understand, hospitals the size of Rancho Springs and Inland Valley cost less than $150 million to build in total.

Eric: Correct!. I think this bond is more of a bailout if anything.

Steve: Even though Measure I has failed, I don't think families in Menifee are worrying. Just about every family I know of here goes to Inland Valley or Rancho Springs, because the service is so much better. If families are comfortable with those two hospitals, why can't we instead have a bond measure to pay for traffic lights and road improvements?

Eric: This is exactly the point I made to Brian Eckhouse, when he published the original article about Measure I. Menifee residents have a lot of other concerns that are higher on the priority list. I think since the residents of Menifee are relatively younger than Hemet, our wish list would rather see tax money go to schools, (a new high school), crime and safety, infrastucture development and business development. Bailing out MVH is about 6th or more.

Steve: Valley Health System is not a non-profit organization. That is, they are supposed to earn profits like any other business. They should be using the profits to pay for expansion. If Valley Health System is incapable of running its hospitals profitably, then it has a deep systemic problem that no bond measure can fix.

Eric: Exactly. The hospitals are located in communities with a large senior population. These patients typically are on Medicare which pays well. I am sure they will blame undocumented citizens for their problems but studies show that this population represents less than 5% of admissions. I would like to see the financials of the hospital publicly posted so their budget can be scrutinized.

Steve: Valley Health System should sell Menifee Valley Medical Center to a commercial entity, such as Humana, United Healthcare, or any one of several privately run healthcare businesses. These companies operate state-of-the-art hospitals in other cities, and never have to ask voters to pay for it. I'm sure any other healthcare business can run it better than Valley Health System.

Eric: My thoughts exactly. As long as they don't sell it to Southwest healthcare, who already runs Inland Valley, Rancho Springs and are planning the hospital on 79S.

Steve: Moving forward, this is what Valley Health System needs to do, sell Menifee Valley Medical Center to another group. Residents in the Menifee Valley have no interest in sending their tax dollars to pay for hospitals in Moreno Valley and Hemet. I do want Menifee Valley Medical Center to become a better hospital, with state-of-the-art facilities, and great service from its staff. But Valley Health System has proven itself incapable of running a profitable, top notch, hospital. It's time to get some new ownership in there.

Eric: I agree! Measure I appears to have been a last minute effort to get saved by the taxpyers. Menifee Valley residents need their money to be invested into here in the Menifee Valley, but I think the schools, infracstructure, freeways, police and business developement should be the priority. We have adequate hospitals south of Newport! Bad fiscal management of administrators should not be left to the taxpayers to resolve. If that were the case, we might as well raise taxes to help people payoff high interest credit card loans of community members who are in debt!

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