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Hospital Board Hopefuls Tackle Questions, Offer Perspectives
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Four candidates are running for three open positions on the Oak Valley Hospital District Board of Directors in the Nov. 6 election. The Leader posed the same questions to each of the candidates, seeking their thoughts and positions on a number of topics. Following are the responses from the candidates, featured in alphabetical order: Dr. Edward Chock (incumbent); Dan Cummins (incumbent); Kent Kushar and Dr. Chaitanya ‘Chet’ Mahida.




QUESTION: Why are you running for the OVHD Board?

ANSWER: I believe an objective physician on the governing board is essential, bringing the perspective of a frontline healthcare provider to balance the business aspects with the humanistic side of healthcare management. Extending my tenure on the Board would afford me the opportunity to continue to help charter the course of quality healthcare for this community.


Q: What do you feel are your unique qualifications for the position?

A: As a physician in private practice for nearly 40 years, I understand exactly what the fine citizens of our community are seeking for their healthcare needs. I have devoted 20 of those years in governance of the Hospital District.


Q: In your opinion, what is the largest issue facing the hospital?

A: I believe the key issue is the maintenance, development, and recruitment of hospital staff at our hospital. Our challenge is to adequately compensate our loyal and long-term employees, and at the same time build the future by recruitment of new quality employees in a highly competitive job market. The challenge is to retain, develop, and recruit staff in a fiscally responsible manner and not to ‘mortgage’ the future.

Additionally there are other key issues critical to the continued success of our District. Physician recruitment is ever present in our strategic thinking, realizing it is our bridge to the future. The vast changes in healthcare delivery in this country as we switch to an emphasis on more preventive healthcare along with today’s younger physicians wanting a more balanced life style make physician recruitment more challenging than ever.

Another issue is the completion of the second floor of the hospital. All options will be explored before proceeding in a fiscally responsible manner with emotions and enthusiasm tempered by the acknowledgement that not all services are appropriate for our hospital as we develop our plan to accomplish this important process.

These along with many other issues must be dealt with in context of maintaining financial stability during a time of critical changes in healthcare and with no anticipated ‘government monies or subsidies’ on the horizon.


Q: How do you see yourself working with the other board members and administration to keep the hospital viable?

A: A testament to harmony on the Board with current administration during my tenure on the board is how we have confronted the challenge of financial viability during these tumultuous times in the healthcare industry and made the right decisions working together. This has occurred as we have seen many community hospitals, both large and small throughout the state either forced to close or be purchased by another entity due to financial hardship.

It is in this spirit that I endorse my running mates, Daniel Cummins and Kent Kushar, to join me in this endeavor.


Q: What benefits do you feel the hospital brings to the community?

A: The benefits both tangible and intangible are innumerable and are as follows:

Having Emergency Room services that are staffed by physicians and nurses 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Establishing clinics throughout the District that provide basic healthcare (medical, dental, and chiropractic), social services, and mental health to the underserved. Developing a hospitalist program thought to be unaffordable for this small facility has been established providing 24 hours seven days a week in hospital physician support, and to care for patients presenting to ED without a physician. The utilization of technology to extend our services and to improve on existing services. For example, telemedicine access to specialties will be further developed bringing services not currently available, recognizing the shortage of certain specialties not only in our community, but the entire county. Continuing the development of outpatient services product lines including the areas of Emergency Department, clinical laboratory, and imaging services.




QUESTION: Why are you running for OVHD Board?

ANSWER: Oak Valley Hospital is an institution that I hold very dear both personally and professionally. It has been an influential part of my development starting as a teenager who was an ROP student through Oakdale High School. It became my first post-graduation employer at the age of 19 when I began my career as an Emergency Medical Technician for the ambulance company. It has provided my wife with a fulfilling nursing career for nearly 30 years. It’s where my children were born and where my family has gone for their medical needs for multiple generations. Oak Valley has always been there for me, and I wish to continue to be there for it and the community I’ve always called home.


Q: What do you feel are your unique qualifications for the position?

A: For over 35 years I have built a career in Oakdale as an Emergency Responder and local Fire Captain. This has allowed me to have a direct line of contact with the community as a whole, thus providing me with a unique perspective on the different necessities of healthcare that our community needs. Over the years, I have seen members of our community in their most vulnerable and emotional times of need. This allows me a unique point of view that I constantly carry with me and am able to communicate to the board of directors while working together to best serve our community.


Q: In your opinion, what is the largest issue facing the hospital?

A: The largest issue that faces Oak Valley Hospital is the same one that faces any large institution: financial stability. In recent years, the hospital has made great strides in this area. In the past eight years, Oak Valley has regained its standalone status and increased its annual revenue from under a million dollars to 14 million dollars this past fiscal year. However, to keep our hospital progressing, we need a board that remains vigilant in its decisions concerning our financial situation. It is only through constant vigilance and alertness that we can maintain the progress that’s already been made and strive for further advancements.


Q: How do you see yourself working with other board members and administration to keep the hospital viable?

A: When working with fellow board members towards a common goal, strategic planning is absolutely necessary. It is my belief that everybody has their own set of valuable ideas and when articulated correctly they can be combined together to create the best plan possible. As someone who has served as chairman of the board for five of eight of my elected years, I have faced the challenges of taking a very diverse set of ideas and channeling them into one concrete plan. This experience has influenced my decision to endorse Kent Kushar and Dr. Edward Chock as my running mates. Each of us has our own opinions and perspectives that will be beneficial to the board. Kent’s experience with finances allows him to bring fresh ideas to our financial department. Dr. Chock’s experiences as a physician at this hospital allow him to advocate for employee and patient needs. And I, as a lifelong member of this community and long-term public servant, understand the community’s wants and needs. Although we are not always in agreement with one another, it is our differences that will allow us to help a board reach its common goals.


Q: What benefits do you feel the hospital brings to the community?

A: Oak Valley Hospital is the heart of the community. We have been providing basic healthcare to our district’s communities for five decades. The benefit of having a community hospital is that Oak Valley gives you the heartfelt care that is rare in healthcare these days. When you visit Oak Valley, you experience neighbors helping neighbors and friends helping friends. We provide the primary care to our community gladly with a mission to not just provide basic care, but to create a positive influence in the overall health of our community. This can be seen through our support of preventive care programs, follow up care programs, rehabilitation programs, the wellness center, and the family support network. In addition to all of this, Oak Valley also plays a big part in educating our future healthcare providers through our ROP program that is run through Oakdale High School. Not only are we introducing young students to their future careers, we are also instilling in them the neighborly aspect of healthcare that is unique to Oak Valley Hospital. It is not only our wish, but our responsibility to educate and inspire our future healthcare professionals.




QUESTION: Why are you running for the OVHD Board?

ANSWER: It really is a simple answer: My family and I have lived in this community for 20 years. This is an opportunity to get involved and serve the community through the organization that sits at the heart of it – The Oak Valley Community Hospital.


Q: What do you feel are your unique qualifications for the position?

A: My professional career has spanned over half a century in corporate America. I have been successful and I have had failures. In each circumstance you learn what is necessary to get things done and move an organization into the future. I have the unique ability to evaluate organizational performance, quickly identify issues, and implement business solutions. My record of success indicates that I do this well with excellent results. I work well with people, I am an active listener, and bring a new perspective to the Hospital Board.


Q: In your opinion, what is the largest issue facing the hospital?

A: This last year saw significant progress with the hospital – profitability! This is necessary for us to continue to be an independent facility. Present hospital staff is doing an excellent job and we must continue to support and recognize the work that is being done. Recruitment of additional staff and Physicians continues to be a high priority. We have lost some patient services that need review in light of “what is appropriate” for our hospital. The opening of the second floor is clearly on the agenda, but can it be done within the financial constraints we all have to live by? Strategy is an important guideline for ongoing and future operations; we need to craft an inclusive one for Oak Valley Hospital that deals with the critical changes in healthcare that we all face. Lastly, better communications with our constituency – many of you are not aware of what has been done and the progress that Oak Valley Hospital has made.


Q: How do you see yourself working with the other board members and administration to keep the hospital viable?

A: My campaign position with Dan Cummins and Dr. Ed Chock is based on the premise that individuals with common purpose and different points of view can yield innovative action to move our Hospital into the future. I have met the other Board members, and if given the opportunity, look forward to working with them. I have served on many Boards, both large and small, and bring a perspective of working together to achieve a result. Diversified ideas do lend themselves to clear goals – objectives that people sign up for and then work to achieve.


Q: What benefits do you feel the hospital brings to the community?

A: A local hospital that provides patient care – close, reliable, effective. 365 days-a-year coverage from the Emergency Room. Recognized CMS 5-star rating of our staff. The ability to provide and extend services within our own community. Pride - Oakdale sought this out with their mission in the 60’s to establish the Hospital District.




QUESTION: Why are you running for the OVHD Board?

ANSWER: I feel strongly that in having the privilege to serve as a board member during this critical juncture in OVHD’s history, I will be able to provide new ideas on behalf of the community to shape OVHD’s future. This rural community hospital has an essential role in our community, and we need to move forward in offering a model of care that best serves our community’s healthcare needs and aligns with innovations in healthcare to provide the optimal level of care to improve outcomes and the patient experience.


Q: What do you feel are your unique qualifications for the position?

A: Having had worked as an internist in the community for almost 30 years, practicing routinely at OVHD and serving in various leadership roles on the medical staff, I have a first-hand account of the current challenges and opportunities for growth for OVHD, and can guide the board in understanding the impact of key board decisions.

In addition, serving as the medical director since the opening of the federally qualified community health center in Oakdale and now in Waterford. My experience running my own private practice and understanding healthcare needs is one that I see as a benefit to the board, as it is my priority to find new cost-effective and meaningful solutions to improve OVHD’s care delivery. We need to think outside the box in order to create sustainable and impactful changes.


Q: In your opinion what is the largest issue facing the hospital?

A: The need for a long-term strategy to ensure our hospitals future viability.

It is a pervasive theme in healthcare with innovation, population health trends, and the rising costs of care delivery, that hospital care as we know it is changing. We need to be proactive in ensuring the viability of this hospital through more cost effective investment in high quality outpatient services – access to multi-specialty physicians, same day surgery centers, infusion services, emergency/urgent care services, and the most advanced imaging technology.

This would allow our community to access state-of-the-art healthcare services, while also minimizing health risks and healthcare costs.

To support this imperative, we also need to plan for the long-term sustainability of our physician network through active recruitment planning.


Q: How do you see yourself working with the other board members and administration to keep the hospital viable?

A: As a board member I would work collaboratively with the board and administration to improve accountability and transparency of the hospital operations and performance, as well as encourage active engagement of the community in understanding and incorporating their input in how this hospital can best serve. I believe the board and administration should align on the strategic vision for OVHD in order to best work together to ensure our community hospital can thrive going forward.


Q: What benefits do you feel the hospital brings to your community?

A: It provides a local and accessible avenue for our community in providing a spectrum of care for both emergent and chronic conditions. As a rural community hospital, it plays a vital role in being the first point of care for our community’s healthcare needs. It is a reflection of our community values in providing friendly, customer focused, and high quality services.