By Deb Murphy
Southern Inyo Healthcare District’s Board of Directors held one of what will be a long series of meetings to begin dealing with the failure of Measure J, a parcel tax designed to pay off bankruptcy claims.
The measure fell short of the required 66-percent, plus one, requirement at the April 10 special election.
With a court hearing on the district’s bankruptcy plan, based on voter approval of the measure, at the end of May, board member Dick Fedchenko told those in attendance, “We can’t save the hospital as we know it. Our task now is to figure out how to handle the settlement.”
Board members Fedchenko and Jaqui Hickman have met with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. “Ridgecrest and Northern Inyo have an interest, but they can’t make us whole,” explained Hickman.
The board’s and community’s frustration was evident. “What’s plan B?” asked board member Carma Roper. “We don’t know.”
Hickman was more direct. “People spent more money driving to workshops and campaigning against Measure J than they would have paid if J had passed,” she said of the $215 per parcel measure.
The simple, un-stated fact: regulations governing both hospitals and property-based taxes shoved the board into a corner. General obligation bonds, based on the value of the property, can’t be used to pay off bankruptcies; graduated parcel taxes are no longer legal. The most vital part of the hospital is the emergency room without which the rural health care clinic and skilled nursing facility cannot legally function. The ER is also the one department of the hospital that will probably never pay for itself.
Mono County’s solution is a Paramedic Plan, but that consumes 10-percent of the county’s general fund, according to Inyo Supervisor Matt Kingsley.
Fedchenko said the discussions with Ridgecrest are preliminary. “We’ll have new information in the next weeks,” he said.