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  1. TopTop #1
    Peacetown Jonathan's Avatar
    Investigative Reporter

    Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital


    The 2014 Progressive Sebastopol Voter Guide, which I was part of creating, strongly endorsed Dennis Colthurst and Richard Powers for Palm Drive District Board, as the best candidates to reopen a hospital with an emergency room at Palm Drive. We believe that this contest, along with passing Measure M to solve the worst funding crisis in County Library history, are the two most important votes that citizens can cast in this election.

    Our Voter Guide, included the following statement, which Jim Horn, as well as his lead backer in Sebastopol’s City Council, John Eder, have challenged us to support:

    "Horn, who deceptively overstates the cost of reopening, has emerged as the leading opponent of re-opening an emergency room. Horn speaks of supporting an “urgent care” alternative to an ER, but urgent care cannot, by law, accept ambulances or provide critically needed ER services that have saved lives in our community for generations."

    Horn and Eder’s objections are rooted in the fact that Horn, like every person running for public office in a community that has seen its life saving emergency room closed for the first time in 70 years, states that he, too, would like to “Open Our Hospital.”

    But the evidence of Jim Horn’s many other words, and actions in this matter, speak a lot more clearly than this hollow statement. Electing Jim Horn’s will provide a continuation of a three person majority that history has demonstrated will torpedo any Foundation plan that is presented as “financially unviable.”

    I am convinced that if Jim Horn is elected, the impressive plan by dozens of doctors, health experts, business leaders, and community volunteers that has emerged from six months of hard work will be voted down by the Palm District Board. Why?


    Jim Horn continually undermines the reopening effort with misleading information that overstates the cost of reopening and inflates Palm Drive’s past losses.

    Palm Drive Hospital closed on April 29, 2014. On May 7 a commentary by Jim Horn appeared in Sonoma West. Without mentioning in his column that there were any other reviews that differed from his, Horn wrote this about the hopelessness of keeping Palm drive open:

    “As a very small acute care hospital, it simply cannot compete with three major medical centers only a few miles away,”


    Horn’s belief in the impossibility of a hospital succeeding has never wavered. This is what he wrote in his ballot statement:

    “I support reopening Palm Drive Hospital, but only in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. I also support expanding health care services in our underserved River communities. However, we must face facts. The hospital lost $64 million in the last 13 years, and the District is in bankruptcy for the second time. The hospital building is 40 years old and needs millions of dollars of repairs and upgrades."

    On October 14, at a Foundation meeting in the Guernville firehouse to build support for a reopening effort, Horn made the following public statement:

    “So one of the considerations that I see is the hospital building is our greatest asset, it’s our only asset, really. And to get out of this bankruptcy, are we going to need to do better than a dollar a year in rent? Are we going to need to convert that asset into some cash so we can pay off employees, so we can pay of the other creditors? Nobody’s going to loan us the money this time. Nobody’s that stupid.”`

    I have written before here and here about the Board’s misleading legal interpretation of how little legal power bankruptcy courts have over public agencies that are legally required to use tax revenues to operate essential services like hopsitals. For this post, let’s look at Jim Horn’s much repeated $64 million in losses claim.

    The truth is that the hospital had only a $5 million loss on $272 million in revenue in the fiscal years from 2002 to 2013, the last full year of operations. This represents only 1.9% of revenue, a figure that could have and should have been managed by the hospital’s administration.

    By Horn’s own recent admission here on Wacco (check out this thread in which he works to justify this inflated number) Horn includes $8.4 million in losses for unaudited 2014, most of which was due to the closure of the hospital, not from operations of the hospital.

    Most importantly, the $64 million includes all $3.8 million or so in parcel taxes that taxpayers voted for, and paid, for each of the past 13 years.

    Jim Horn’s deliberate and misleading inflation of the hospital’s losses serve one purpose: to undermine public confidence in the potential financial viability of the Foundation plan, and to provide political cover for Horn’s inevitable vote—should voters elect him-- to kill the community’s only prospect of reopening an emergency room at Palm Drive.

    There are two other reasons why I think Jim Horn will vote agaisnt any plan to reopen a hosptial that containsd an emergency room.

    One is that Horn champions the “Bait and Switch” strategy of promoting a misunderstood “Urgent Care” substitution for an emergency room.

    The third is that Horn continues the Hospital Board’s illegal pattern of secrecy, in violation of the Brown Act and the public trust.

    For the hundreds of experts, business leaders and volunteers who are working to help restore an emergency room and hospital at Palm Drive, two challenges are paramount. One is convincing potential donors and the public that there is political consensus around the objective of reopening. In short: “Everyone wants to do this.” The second is that that failure is not the only option for Palm Drive: that with a compelling business model and the strong business management that has been lacking at the hospital for the past four years, we might succeed. In short: “We can do this.”

    By inflating the financial challenges that reopening faces, Jim Horn’s public statements have deliberately undermined public confidence. I believe that he is doing this to justify the inevitable: that short of a billionaire signing a blank check to cover all losses for the rest of time, Jim Horn will inevitably find reasons to vote down any Foundation reopening plan that includes an emergency room because he deems it "financially unviable."

    About This Reporter

    I want to provide a little more detail, with hyperlinks, about me, Jonathan Greenberg, the person reporting here.

    I have been an investigative financial and political journalist for more than 30 years I started as a Forbes Magazine reporter,where I was the research chief for the first Forbes 400 listing of wealthy Americans. I have contributed feature stories to more than two dozen national publications, have written two well-reviewed books and continue to write and contribute as a Huffington Post blogger and pundit here at WaccoBB.net and other online and print outlets. I am one of fewer than 200 journalists in the country that graduated with a Masters Degree in Law from Yale Law School’s unique program for investigative reporters. For two years after September 11, I served as Policy Director for Lower Manhattan Redevelopment for the New York City Council, providing independent oversight and analysis of $2 billion in federal restitution programs. I have started and run three Internet communications companies, one of them with more than 75 employees in two countries. My cover story in the Bohemian about why County libraries were closed Mondays for the first time in history earned a first place award in analysis from the SF Peninsula Press Club this year. It was the first time the Bohemian ever ran an article that won this prize. (I am also currently a candidate for Sebastopol’s City Council).

    I say this not to toot my own horn, but to contextualize the level of objective, professional financial and legal analysis that I bring to the Palm Drive hospital closing—and reopening—issue. I started writing about and investigating what happened to, and what might happen to, the hospital six months ago. I have interviewed more than 100 people about the hospital, and pored through dozens of documents.

    I started objectively in this matter, without a “dog in this fight” (no relatives or friends on either side of the issue when I started out). My position as a strong and outspoken advocate for the Foundation plan to keep the hospital open, combined with an urgent desire, for myself, my family, my neighbors, and our community, to see this vital service restored to our community.

    I have analyzed the financial mismanagement and lax oversight, as well as the challenging economic conditions, that caused Palm Drive Hospital's bankruptcy. And I have assessed the strategic elements and personnel and financial assumptions of the new Foundation plan. I believe the Foundation effort can, and will work. It's greatest challenge is electing a District Board willing to allow it to happen.


    Last edited by Peacetown Jonathan; 11-01-2014 at 11:26 PM.
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  3. TopTop #2
    JimHorn's Avatar
    JimHorn
     

    What Jim Horn Really Said...

    For someone who says he hates negative campaigning, Mr. Greenberg spends a lot of time attacking me—and I’m not even running against him! All of his allegations in this post are false; here’s why:

    “Horn…overstates the cost of reopening…”
    Greenberg has accused me several times of saying that it would take $20 million to reopen the hospital. That’s simply false. What I’ve written and said is this: “The hospital building is 40 years old and needs millions of dollars of repairs and upgrades.” That statement is absolutely true, and the Foundation agrees with me. The Foundation’s latest facilities estimate appears to be about $6--$8 million ($1 million to open and another $1 million/year for 5-7 years in deferred maintenance, equipment replacement, etc.). I think they’re underestimating the cost necessary to accommodate the growth in surgeries and ER visits they hope for, but we both agree that millions are needed. I never said this work was required just to open the doors, and neither has anyone else I know of.

    “Horn… inflates Palm Drive’s past losses.”
    Again, what I’ve written and said is this: “The hospital lost $64 million in the last 13 years, and the District is in bankruptcy for the second time.” I’m talking here about the operating profit/loss for the hospital, and not the overall income/expense of the District that includes tax subsidies and one-time payments. The numbers I use come directly from the OSHPD, the state agency that oversees hospitals, and I classify operating profit/loss exactly the same way that OSHPD does. For example, for the 2009-10 fiscal year, the data show an operating loss of about $1.8 million. Unfortunately, the operating losses were even larger in every other year. The $64 million figure comes from combining the $55 million total operating losses that OSHPD shows from 2002-2013 (12 years) and adding the District’s unaudited estimate of $8.9 million loss in 2014. So, for 13 years, the total operating loss is about $64 million.

    “Horn champions the “Bait and Switch” strategy of promoting a misunderstood “Urgent Care” substitution for an emergency room.”
    I’m not sure what Greenberg means, but here’s what I’ve actually said: “Reopen Palm Drive Hospital if it can be done in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. If it can’t, then restore radiology, laboratory, outpatient surgery and urgent care services to benefit as many District residents as possible.” How is this “bait and switch? If we can’t make Plan A work, then let’s look at Plan B or C—isn’t that the most responsible course of action?

    “Horn continues the Hospital Board’s illegal pattern of secrecy, in violation of the Brown Act and the public trust”
    Since Greenberg isn’t supplying details, I can only guess that he’s referring to our “ad hoc” committee that is reviewing the three proposals received by the District back in August. This committee is exempt from the Brown Act because it has a specific purpose, a limited duration, and only two board members on it (myself and board president Marsha Sue Lustig). As allowed by law, we have several non-voting consultants with expertise in hospital operations and public safety who attend our meetings as their schedules allow. They’ve proven invaluable in helping us understand the proposals. We hope to report our findings to the full District board soon. The Board’s review of our report, along with any discussion and actions that might result, will be conducted in open session.

    Please visit my website (JimHornForPalmDrive2014.com), read my recent article or watch my interview with Barry Chertov if you’d like to learn my real positions. Thank you.

    Quote Peacetown Jonathan wrote: View Post

    The 2014 Progressive Sebastopol Voter Guide, which I was part of creating, strongly endorsed Dennis Colthurst and Richard Powers for Palm Drive District Board, as the best candidates to reopen a hospital with an emergency room at Palm Drive. We believe that this contest, along with passing Measure R to solve the worst funding crisis in County Library history, are the two most important votes that citizens can cast in this election.

    Our Voter Guide, included the following statement, which Jim Horn, as well as his lead backer in Sebastopol’s City Council, John Eder, have challenged us to support:

    "Horn, who deceptively overstates the cost of reopening, has emerged as the leading opponent of re-opening an emergency room. Horn speaks of supporting an “urgent care” alternative to an ER, but urgent care cannot, by law, accept ambulances or provide critically needed ER services that have saved lives in our community for generations."...
    Last edited by Barry; 10-31-2014 at 02:46 PM.
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  5. TopTop #3
    haammer's Avatar
    haammer
     

    Re: Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital

    Horn's response explains some technical points, but doesn't cut to the core of the issue. He's hesitant to make a true claim of actually reopening the ER unless it's with *but it's nearly impossible so don't count on it.

    Jim Horn:
    “As a very small acute care hospital, it simply cannot compete with three major medical centers only a few miles away”


    Colthurst and Powers, on the other hand, have stated unequivocally that they will work to Open Our Hospital with an Emergency Room and Acute Care services.
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  7. TopTop #4
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital

    Mr. Greenberg wrote:

    "The 2014 Progressive Sebastopol Voter Guide, which I was part of creating, strongly endorsed Dennis Colthurst and Richard Powers for Palm Drive District Board, as the best candidates to reopen a hospital with an emergency room at Palm Drive. We believe that this contest, along with passing Measure R to solve the worst funding crisis in County Library history, are the two most important votes that citizens can cast in this election.
    "

    I join him in wholeheartedly supporting the passage of Measure R. See you at the polls- don't forget to vote!
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  9. TopTop #5
    haammer's Avatar
    haammer
     

    Re: Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital

    I'd like to weigh in once more on this issue. I don't know about all the facts of this complicated issue. I do know that Colthurst and Powers say boldly and confidently that they WILL open the hospital. Jim Horn says he MIGHT open the hospital. Those are facts I am sure of.
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  10. TopTop #6
    jmarler's Avatar
    jmarler
     

    Re: Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital

    Dear Friends within the Palm Drive Healthcare District:

    Tuesday’s election will determine whether a majority of the Palm Drive District Board will favor reopening our hospital, or whether the result will be business as usual. For the past six months, a comprehensive plan has been developed by the Palm Drive Healthcare Foundation, not simply to reopen Palm Drive, but to create a 21st century Medical Center with a no-wait ER and advanced facilities that will be self-sustaining for years to come. This is the only plan on the table, and the District Board will decide whether to approve the plan or to reject it.

    Jim Horn, who is running for a seat on the District Board, has stated that he is in favor of reopening the hospital ONLY IF it can be proved to be “fiscally responsible and sustainable.” Instead of contributing to the hospital’s success, he reserves the right to withhold his approval if he is elected. He assumes the high ground of seeking certainly over uncertainty. Of course, what is most certain is that if the plan is rejected by the Board, we will never again have the possibility of having a hospital west of Hwy 101. Moreover, during two community meetings (Guerneville Oct. 14 and Sebastopol Oct. 20) Horn mentioned the possibility of turning the hospital building into cash to pay the creditors.

    Our local physicians and first responders in the case of emergencies have made it very clear that it is an absolute necessity to have a hospital with ER to serve the Palm Drive Healthcare District. Dr. Richard Powers and Dennis Colthurst are the only two candidates who are 100% dedicated to reopening our hospital. Both need to be elected in order for there to be a majority on the board in favor of opening our hospital. Your vote is extremely important for the future wellbeing of our entire community.

    Joan Marler
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  12. TopTop #7
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital

    As clearly elucidated by Jim Horn, there really is no “plan” at this point in time. All the public has to base their decisions upon is a well-prepared graphic document with a lot of concepts, ideas and photographs. No financial data has been released by the Foundation, to date, that shows any correlation between the “plan” and financial reality.

    To state that “The Doc and The Cop” fully embrace the "plan”, and commit themselves 100% to opening the hospital, is to essentially say that they fully embrace a marketing brochure without substantiation, whereas “The Engineer” displays a more cautious approach that asks, “Please explain how you intend to pay for all of these ideas and concepts.”

    Jim Horn has been criticized for stating that he supports the reopening of Palm Drive Hospital, if it can be done in a financially responsible and sustainable manner. Fiscally responsible simply means generating revenues that equal or exceed expenses- kind of like your personal checking account, or "living within your means." Financially sustainable simply means creating and working within a model that provides some assurance that the hospital, once opened, remains open, and does not create the situation where people find themselves in 3-5 years debating what can be done to reopen the hospital again. Do these two concerns really seem that irresponsible?

    These are some of the real obstacles to reopening Palm Drive- not Jim Horn:

    • The need to raise an estimated $6,000,000,000.00-$10,000,000,000.00 (or more) for startup costs.
    • The need to comply with Federal and State licensing requirements.
    • The need to complete and present the Foundation’s financial documents to the District Board.
    • The need to negotiate a lease agreement for the hospital with the District.
    • The need to fund and perform needed facility upgrades and repairs required for startup.
    To suggest that Powers/Colthurst elected = Palm Drive Open vs. Horn elected = Palm Drive Closed is simplistic, naive and misleading.

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  14. TopTop #8
    Peacetown Jonathan's Avatar
    Investigative Reporter

    Re: Why Electing Jim Horn Will Doom Hospital

    Thank you Joan.

    This is the most important local election that I have been part of. The outcome of the Palm Drive Board election will determine whether our community gets a life saving emergency room opened or not.

    Despite the protests of the "prove your hypothetical will work" political figures deeply invested in the failure of the hospital (Jim Horn and John Eder their lead spokespeople), they oppose giving the Foundation and the hundreds of doctors, health experts and volunteers supporting it an opportunity to try something that might succeed.

    Quote jmarler wrote: View Post
    Tuesday’s election will determine whether a majority of the Palm Drive District Board will favor reopening our hospital, or whether the result will be business as usual. For the past six months, a comprehensive plan has been developed by the Palm Drive Healthcare Foundation, not simply to reopen Palm Drive, but to create a 21st century Medical Center with a no-wait ER and advanced facilities that will be self-sustaining for years to come. This is the only plan on the table, and the District Board will decide whether to approve the plan or to reject it.
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