Three people are now vying for the two open seats on the El Camino Healthcare District board this November, kicking the election into high gear with a contested race.
Bay Area neurologist Peter C. Fung recently announced plans to run for a seat on the board, joining current Mountain View City Council member Margaret Abe-Koga in the race. Incumbent David Reeder also announced that he will run for re-election to pursue his fifth term.
Current board member Patricia Einarson said she will not seek re-election this year.
The El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors includes five publicly elected representatives to oversee the assets of the healthcare district -- including El Camino Hospital. The district encompasses all of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, and parts of Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Palo Alto.
The healthcare district collects taxes from residents within the district, which is funneled into community health programs through the district's Community Benefit Program.
Past campaign issues for the El Camino Healthcare District include criticism over a lack of transparency and a possible conflict of interest with the dual-board structure -- where district board members make up a majority of the hospital corporation's board.
Peter C. Fung
Peter C. Fung has been a practicing neurologist in the South Bay and Peninsula for over 35 years, and is the current medical director of El Camino Hospital's Stroke Center. Fung boasts that the Stroke Center is rated among the top 5 percent in the nation with top-notch patient satisfaction, and passed four reviews by the Joint Commission with no deficiencies.
Fung is also a founding member of the Chinese Health Initiative, a program at El Camino Hospital that seeks to reduce the health disparities in the growing Chinese population in the Bay Area. He said a key component of the program is raising awareness and educating the public about strokes, cardiovascular disease and hepatitis, especially among people who do not seek out a doctor for help with health problems. In the future, he hopes to extend that kind of outreach to a broader audience.
"I want to expand that vision to improve wellness for all groups," Fung said.
Fung said that he wants to branch out his success with the hospital's Stroke Center and improve other programs as well, and people suggested that he run for a spot on the El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors. If elected, he said he would leave his role as director of the Stroke Center and focus his time and energy on the board.
As a member of the board, Fung said he would take a critical look at how money is allocated through the Community Benefit Program to programs across the district. He said he would be interested in bolstering funds to RotaCare, a free clinic for people with little to no access to care, as well as school and mental health programs. He said he was disappointed to see a decrease in total grant money from the Community Benefit Program this year.
Fung said he would also be committed to making sure services are as affordable as possible for the patients visiting El Camino Hospital.
"I want to look at the prices and find the minimum we can charge and still have an austere balance, while still providing the best care," Fung said.
A member of the Healthcare District board since 1999, Reeder has served on the board longer than any other sitting member by almost a decade. He was a former mayor and council member for the city of Los Altos, and has served as the chair, vice chair and treasurer of the healthcare district board.
After serving on the city council, a former Los Altos mayor suggested to Reeder that he should join the El Camino Healthcare District board to make sure the health needs of the community are being met.
Reeder said working for the district over the years has been a rewarding experience, more so than city council.
"It feels like you're close to people with a real need and have a one-on-one experience with the patients," Reeder said.
He has served on a number of El Camino Hospital's committees, and currently chairs the quality committee.
"Quality of service is my No. 1 item," Reeder said. "I've been on the committee for five or six years to see that we provide the best quality of care and the safest care for patients."
Reeder said that ever year, departments at the hospital do presentations and get an assessment that reflects the quality of service. That includes feedback from patients who came to the hospital for a procedure. Reeder said it's important that patients leave with a positive experience.
Beyond quality, Reeder has spent between five and six years on the finance committee, and said it's important for the hospital to look beyond year-to-year financials and monitor all the factors that affect the budget. For example, he advocates looking at Medicare patients on a monthly basis to get a better reading on the financial health of the hospital.
Reeder said the healthcare district board has made a lot of improvements since the 2012 audit by the Local Agency Formation Commission of Santa Clara County. The audit, among other things, criticized the board for lack of transparency.
"We're doing a better job at governance, and we're rated in the top 10 percent in the country," Reeder said.
Reeder said El Camino Hospital has plans to put a greater emphasis on continuity of care -- where the hospital continues to provide assistance to patients long after they are discharged from the hospital. He said he wants to remain on the district board to see that continuity of care is implemented successfully and funded properly.
"Healthcare is a very complicated business, and it's important to have someone on the board who has the experience needed," Reeder said.