Just as the health care landscape has evolved in response to medical advances, changes in delivery systems, complicated reimbursement formulas and changing demographics, so has the work of health care districts. While districts were originally formed to provide hospital services, today their mandate has evolved to caring for the long-term health of entire communities through community investments, partnerships and financial stewardship.
This evolution was recognized and codified in 1994, when Governor Pete Wilson (R) signed SB 1169, changing "hospital" districts to "health care" districts and reaffirming their power "to do any and all things that are necessary for, and to the advantage of any type of health promoting service or health care facility."
The Peninsula Health Care District aggressively embraces its mission -- that all residents enjoy optimal health through education, prevention and access to needed health care services. This means investing in community health programs that serve all of our 275,000 residents, as well as managing our financial resources to ensure that our community hospital and emergency department remain open.
In a 2006 detailed analysis of health care districts prepared for the California HealthCare Foundation, Margaret Taylor, retired director of the San Mateo County Health Services Department, concluded that "in an era of limited health resources, there is tremendous value in these districts and their dedicated health dollars. With the right focus and local input, they have the potential to improve the health status of communities and promote greater interest in community health."
Lately, the Peninsula district has applied that same focus and input to invest more than $13 million in public and private programs that address five basic health priorities: access to basic care; healthy children; senior health and independence; reduction of risk behaviors and health care workforce recruitment and training. It also conducted a "gap" analysis to identify unmet community needs. Thus, the Peninsula district is building a 97-bed assisted living facility and working to bring dental care to the underserved, including low-income children and seniors.
Some demand we spend what we have, now, on indigent programs. This is dangerous and folly. The Peninsula Health Care District has a 50-year Master Agreement, approved by 92% of district voters, to ensure that hospital and core health services are preserved for our community over the next 50 years. We must plan and invest some of our resources for the future and honor our commitment and accountability to the taxpayers to keep the hospital open with a full-time ED if Sutter ever fails.
However, Peninsula district also recognizes the unusual strain on the public health system during this unprecedented economic downturn. During this time of need, the district board has committed $8 million to support county programs, community organizations serving the uninsured and most frail, and the five K-8 school districts in our area, impacting 20,000 children and their families. The Peninsula Health Care District holds itself accountable to residents, taxpayers and community partners, to ensure the health of our communities. We will keep that promise.