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Local News January 15th, 2009

Another Setback for Palomar Pomerado Health?

PPH trustees are considering eliminating plans for a central power plant at the Palomar Medical Center West, as well as cutting back on a number of other expensive plans, one of which is deleting the proposed new tower for Pomerado Hospital. All this comes about as projected new construction costs for the new Palomar Medical Center have soared from $773 million to $957 million.

In a special meeting last week, trustees agreed that the $184 million increase might also cause them to cancel plans for Poway's Pomerado Hospital’s new medical tower. This was one of the key selling points when area voters were urged to approve the $496 million facilities bond in 2004.

If trustees do eliminate the Pomerado Tower there would be a cut in costs of $91 million. Hospital officials are hopeful that donors will come forward to fund the new tower, or if revenues are as strong as predicted for the new Palomar Medical Center they suggest those funds could be used. However, the question arises “how accurate are the projections for revenue?” Given the failure to provide for inflation and other increased construction costs, observers are wondering what is reliable information and what is pure conjecture. Or wishful thinking.

Construction costs can be cut by another $68 million by deleting the long-term energy plant. There is a trade-off, however. Long term energy costs would increase over those planned by utilizing the in house power plant. Deleting gardens, terraces, community rooms, and a rooftop helicopter pad could save another $60 million.

Various excuses were offered as to why the costs ballooned so much since trustees were told in May of 2007 that the costs would run to $773 million. Among other reasons, officials say $42 million of the increase was related to transferring equipment from the old Palomar Medical Center to the new one. Another $74 million was based on a new contractor refining the design plans for the facility, some difficulties grinding granite at the site and state officials mandating design changes based on accessibility and other issues. The rest of the increase is based on confusion about whether the previous contractor had included the central power plant in the design plans, he said.

District trustees agreed that they will have to study the issues closely and make some hard decisions, and soon.

More Hospital Woes - Tri-City Beset With Problems

Tri-City Hospital is facing problems from a variety of sources. First, Beta Healthcare Group, the firm that provides liability insurance to Tri-City Medical Center’s top executives and board members, has indicated its discomfort with recent actions taken by the board. Specifically, it says it has concerns about the recent changes at the hospital and how that might increase exposure to risk. They’ve indicated they may withdraw insurance coverage unless it can be assured the hospital is capable of being operated in a competent manner.

This latest action comes as a follow-up to the decision at the December 18th board meeting when four members of the hospital board put eight top executives on a paid leave of absence, including CEO, Art Gonzales, fired the attorney, hired a new attorney, and hired as interim director of operations an accountant, Michael Williams, with instructions to do a forensic investigation of the hospital finances while also acting as temporary CEO. Mr. Williams has never run a hospital before.

At least one board member, Ron Mitchell, said he would be forced to step down if the insurance was pulled.
He compared the hospital situation as being no different than him practicing as a CPA without liability coverage. He simply could not afford to do either. He has said he would not continue to serve as a trustee if the insurance coverage was withdrawn.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing the eight senior executives have charged that the meeting where the executives were put on administrative leave was illegal. At least one board member, Mitchell, agree that certain elements of the December 18 meeting violated public meetings law. Attorneys for the suspended administrators argue that they should have, at a minimum, been given notice of the meeting and the agenda. However, an attorney for the hospital board said no notice was required because leave is not a form of discipline.

The hospital is, in fact, interviewing individuals for interim chief exeuctive but has made no decision.

The sidelined executive team ---- which include Gonzalez, chief operating officer Suellyn Ellerbee, vice president of strategic services Allen Coleman and human resources director Doreen Sanderson ---- have declined to comment or have not returned phone calls.

Undercover Operation Yields Two Citations

On Wednesday, January 7, 2009, the Escondido Police Department's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), in conjunction with the State of California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), conducted a shoulder tap operation where decoys, under the age of twenty-one, approached adults outside several ABC licensed establishments in the City of Escondido. The decoys in this operation contacted several adults and asked them if they would purchase alcohol for them (decoys).

During this operation, five locations were visited and approximately fourteen adults were approached and asked to purchase alcohol. As a result, one man and one woman agreed to make purchases for the decoys.

The SIU/ABC team issued a citation to Lawrence Kenneth Kiernan Jr., 42, of Escondido CA., and Sandra Lynne Roberts, 39, of Escondido, Ca. for furnishing alcohol to a minor, a violation of B&P 25658 (a).

These types of checks, as well as other types of ABC operations, are being conducted throughout the year with funding from a recent ABC grant awarded to the Escondido Police Department.

Escondido Humane Society Suffers Two Robberies In One Week

The Escondido Humane Society is resuming normal Adoption Center operations after a robbery a week ago Tuesday night caused the Adoption Center to be closed for several hours on the next Wednesday for an investigation. Animals were transferred to other areas of the building, and adoptions counselors remained on-site to try to find homes for more than 100 dogs and cats at the shelter.

The Escondido Humane Society was broken into on Tuesday night for the second time in a week. Both robberies resulted in total loss and damages estimated at $1,700. The first break-in between Saturday night and Sunday morning yielded few clues for the Escondido Police Department, but the robbery just a few days later left more evidence behind, and that time the thief was unable to get away with cash. The security alarms sounded at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night and EPD was dispatched to the scene, possibly interrupting the perpetrator/s, who left after destroying a cash register but did not find any money inside.

Police theorized that the would-be thief entered through the roof of the facility. Security camera footage and other evidence were collected, and the Humane Society is hopeful that the thief or thieves will be identified and captured quickly. In the meantime, patrols in the area have been increased and additional security systems have been put in place.

Shanghai High School Students to Visit Sister School in Carlsbad

Pacific Ridge School will host students and faculty from its sister school, the Shanghai Shidong High School (SSHS) located in China, from Saturday, January 24, to Thursday, January 29, 2009.

Nine students and two faculty members from SSHS will stay with nine Pacific Ridge families and participate in a number of educational activities while visiting Southern California. The current tenth grade Pacific Ridge students visited Shanghai in June of 2008 and left with plans to coordinate a visit to America for the Shidong students. As an extension of teaching global engagement, the January visit will allow the two student bodies to further educate one another on their respective cultures.

“Teaching begins in the classroom and continues with practical life application,” stated Dr. Eileen Mullady, Head of School for Pacific Ridge School. “Engaging the world is a core principle of Pacific Ridge’s curriculum. Sharing experiences, such as the January trip with our sister school encourages a deeper understanding for others and their culture.”

Shirley Chu, Pacific Ridge’s Chinese instructor, added, “The Shanghai home-stay was the most memorable experience of our China trip last June. It is impossible to understand a country by sightseeing alone; living with the people of that country is the only way to truly learn about that culture. We are excited to have the opportunity to return the hospitality that was given to us during our trip and enthusiastically wait for their arrival at the end of January.”

Opened in the fall of 2007, Pacific Ridge School is a non-profit, independent middle and high school located in North County, San Diego. With the distinctive mission of building a community that fosters academic excellence, ethical responsibility and global engagement, Pacific Ridge offers a first-rate educational experience to prepare students for college and a purposeful life. For more information, visit: www.pacificridge.org.

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