Heffernan can't be ‘dismantled'

December 06, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The Heffernan Memorial Hospital District board was not "dismantled" at Wednesday's meeting and it can't be, according to the district's attorney, Eduardo Rivera.

He said the district could be "disorganized" but only after it has paid the debt it took on when it restructured and refinanced a multi-million dollar bond.

The debt is paid off by a half-cent sales tax that will be collected by the district until the debt is paid.

During Wednesday's meeting, Trustee David Ouzan recommended dismantling the board because it is wasting $75,000 to $100,000 a year in taxpayer money by keeping the hospital building open with a small administrative staff but not providing medical services.


Rivera said if the board decided to scuttle itself as Ouzan was recommending, the county Board of Supervisors would take control of the district and possibly appoint new board members.

"It would be a Pyrrhic victory, a gesture and an empty gesture at that. Someone would have to take the helm," he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Ouzan outlined why he thought the board should be dismantled.

Standing at a chalkboard, he sketched squares that represented money, facility and administration.

Ouzan said the community expects medical services at the hospital building, closed since 1998. He said that once there are medical services offered, a board can be created.

He said if Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo follows through with its plans to open an urgent-care center in the building it would have its own board anyway.

Ouzan then asked rhetorically if there would be "a board inside a board on top of a board?"

The four other trustees disagreed with much of what Ouzan said and told him so during the meeting.

Trustees Mark Perrone and Ray Falcon actually recommended spending more money, even as Ouzan was calling for fiscal restraint.

Falcon listed the hospital-related activities that he and trustee Perrone have taken upon themselves in the past few months.

Falcon said, "We have spent a lot of time with all these groups. Many hours of travel and expenses have already been paid by us and we have not received any compensation."

Falcon proposed a scenario that would allow the board to create a director position. That director would manage the hospital building's affairs and meet with engineers as the district board tries to secure medical services at the building.

Ouzan blasted that idea.

"Why would you want to hire more employees if the business is shut down?" he asked.

Perrone said the board should invest something around "$1,000" to save six months of delay in providing a service to the community.

He said the $1,000 was a hypothetical figure.

Lupita Ortega, the board clerk, then said, "What we need is Mr. Legaspi at a dollar a year. He was doing a good job."

For months Henry Legaspi managed the hospital building's affairs for $1 a year. This year he quit for unspecified reasons.

Ortega's idea was welcomed by the board. Chairwoman Norma Apodaca said the board should consider advertising for someone to volunteer services.

While there was no vote on the issue, the board seemed to agree that was a good idea.

Falcon asked if the person would get paid. Apodaca said it would be a volunteer position.

After that discussion, the board moved on to another proposal from Falcon.

He asked the board to consider authorizing the payment of $100 a meeting and expenses to trustees pursuant to California Health and Safety Code 32103.

Ouzan challenged that idea as well.

"What do we do that we deserve to get $100 for a meeting?" he asked.

Falcon said Ouzan had told him three times to put that item on the agenda.

"I never told you that, Mr. Falcon," Ouzan shot back.

Trustee Rosie Fernandez said the board was elected "knowing that we weren't going to get paid."

She said any legitimate expenses for travel or meals with medical service officials could be approved at board level.

In other business, Elizabeth Tavernier of Clinicas said the Clinicas board is still interested in opening an urgent-care center in the hospital building but said it is going to take time.

She said the center might be a reality in the middle of next year if the building is declared safe by engineers.

"We stand firm with this project," she said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles