By Betty Stieringer
The physicians, nurses and technicians of Sharp HealthCare are unsurpassed in their skill, professionalism and patient care. Why, then, is there opposition to Measure H?
Measure H is an economic issue rather than a health care issue. If approved, the control, and income, of publicly owned Grossmont Hospital will be effectively transferred to a billion dollar corporation until the year 2051.
In 2011 Sharp paid salaries in excess of $400,000 to each of more than a dozen administrators. These “overhead” employees were paid about twice the annual earnings of your highly skilled and overworked family physician and five times that of an experienced nurse.
Sharp’s wholly owned insurance company is headquartered offshore in the Cayman Islands. I believe that they should relocate it to the United States, preferably somewhere in San Diego. Real estate professionals tell me that suitable commercial real estate is available in East County. Perhaps a relocation would create new local employment opportunities.
Local community-based healthcare providers have experienced grant reductions or eliminations as property tax revenue is redirected to Sharp. Those providers include the Blood Bank, Communities Against Substance Abuse, the Jacobs/Cushman Food Bank, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, the Burn Institute, the Challenge Center, JFS Foodmobile, Stoney’s Kids, Home of Guiding Hands, Elderhelp, Alzheimer’s Association and Saint Madeline’s Center.
Thoughtful residents are rightly confused as to why we’re being asked to vote now when the current lease still has seven years. Also, why place this proposition on the primary election (June) ballot rather than the general election (November) ballot? The answer is likely that no incumbent board member is up for election in June, but will have to face the voters in November.
Because Measure H has nothing to do with health care, and everything to do with money, it is informative to compare the original 30 year lease with the proposed 30 year extension. In 1991 Sharp agreed to completely pay off the District’s existing $42,234,166 1985 and 1987 bond principal. However the currently proposed extension calls for Sharp to provide no cash consideration.
Many public agencies such as cities and schools are experiencing financial problems while their traditional sources of income dwindle. However the Grossmont Healthcare District has no similar problem since its property tax income tends to increase during most years. Also, the $247,000,000 bond issue (Proposition G) approved by voters in 2006 is helping address the hospital’s seismic and infrastructure concerns.
Nevertheless we should be demanding at least a token rent for the hospital. Even a small rent payment of $2,000,000 per year would enable the District to pay off early a portion of our current bond indebtedness. Alternatively the District could complete the Health Occupations Training Center (promised under Proposition G) and begin training the next generation of nurses that will be needed to care for our growing population.
In summary, don’t be misled by those who suggest that this proposition is about your health. It isn’t. No one can fault Sharp HealthCare for wanting to control our hospital for zero rent. However my role, and that of my elected colleagues, is to see that the best interests of the public are well served. I regret that Proposition H does not satisfy that obligation. Be assured that your “no” vote will, in no way, affect the way your healthcare professionals treat your family’s illnesses and injuries.
This is purely an economic issue. Accordingly the only persons affected will likely be a few Sharp administrative folks earning $400,000+. I’m certain that they will continue to do well.
Betty Stieringer, RN
Betty Stieringer, elected in 2012, is the newest member of the Grossmont Healthcare District Board of Directors. She is a former USAF nurse and is retired from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. She resides in La Mesa. The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.