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Our Opinion: A difficult tansition

March 18, 2002

For 19 years Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo had the same director, Louis Lerma, who guided the nonprofit health care agency through years of growth. Under his leadership the agency saw its budget rise from $2 million to $15 million and clinics spread to different corners of the Desert Southwest.

Now Lerma and Clinicas are parting ways. Lerma has opted to resign as some members — reportedly not the majority — of the Clinicas board have asked him to step down. The truth is dissension about Lerma's tenure as Clinicas boss goes back years.

That aside, few agencies in the Valley have the kind of impact that Clinicas does based on the number of services it provides, the number of clinics it has and the number of patients it cares for per year. A lot of people depend on Clinicas for their medical services so we hope the agency remains strong.

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Fortunately, it appears Clinicas is on strong financial ground and should transition to new leadership without harming services. This transition period will test the board, which has no experience in seeking a qualified leader. The board made the right decision in hiring an attorney to help with the process.

We hope whoever is chosen for the position will be responsive to the many needs of the communities Clinicas serves. That person has to have the skills to reach out to residents throughout the Imperial Valley and beyond. That person has to be able to lead a staff of more than 200 employees and manage a large budget.

With all that in mind, the Clinicas board should not rush in the search. What it should do is bring in a qualified interim director — someone familiar with the operations — while it conducts a search for a permanent replacement for Lerma.

The Clinicas meetings, for the most part, are open to the public. If you have some concerns, voice your opinion. The board will next meet March 28. The meeting should be at the Clinicas headquarters at 1166 K St. in Brawley.

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