Health district has vital role in county

By Clark Moore December 15, 2008 11:00 pm

Clark Moore
Clark Moore
Coastal Voices Guest Opinion


Now that the election is over and we breathe a collective sigh of relief, I would like to thank my supporters for their vote, those who, win or lose, ran for public office and to each and every one of you who turned out to vote.
During the course of the campaign, the lack of awareness of the Del Norte Healthcare District disappointed me. Whether it was the very minimal coverage from the local media, the tendency of the of the district’s directors to be very low-key about their actions or simply not knowing about the district simply does not matter. The district is an essential part of the Del Norte health-care system.


Formed in the 1940s as the Del Norte Hospital District, its purpose was to operate the “County” hospital (formerly the Knapp Hospital). Seaside Hospital was able to provide, expand and sustain quality medical services to the Del Norte community until drastic changes to the Medicare reimbursement system forced many small community hospitals to close their doors.
Without the lease agreement with Sutter Health System in the mid-1980s, Del Norte could very well have found itself without an acute care hospital. With changes  to state law, the district then became the Del Norte Healthcare District. District assets included the property that is now the Hampton Inn and the Del Norte Community Clinic on A Street. After an extensive public process the properties were declared surplus and sold. Those proceeds were applied to the new Del Norte Community Wellness Center at Washington and Northcrest Drive.
As insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles and general health care costs rose without accompanying earnings increases, employers, the primary payer of health-care costs, found themselves unable to continue to cover the costs involved. This shifted costs to employees and their families. With the cost of insurance premiums in Del Norte, the highest in the state, many found coverage unaffordable and were forced to apply for coverage through state-funded programs (Medi-Cal).
Since use of the health-care system is unavoidable, when those without adequate coverage access the system it is often only in the later stages of the disease process. This can easily translate to the highest cost. This scenario will only intensify with the recent cutbacks in the Medi-Cal program. Those private providers who were still able to accept Medi-Cal will now find it impossible to do so.
So now what? With 50 percent of the medical dollar in Del Norte coming from Medicare and 25 percent from Medi-Cal and other federal, state and local government sources (not an uncommon figure nationwide), maximizing reimbursement from those sources is imperative. Providing medical/dental/mental “homes” for children and families at an affordable cost is absolutely necessary.
We can do this! Physician recruitment and retention, loan re-payment programs, creation of the Del Norte Community Wellness Center, the Children's Health Initiative, the children's dental program, the Family Resource Center, Action Del Norte  and the Community Health Alliance are some examples of community problem solving. We have again proven to ourselves that we can work together effectively. Please join with us in providing quality, essential health-care services for the people of Del Norte; it will take each and every one of us!
Clark Moore is a member of the Del Norte County Healthcare District Board of Directors.