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Sykora agrees to serve as interim Clinicas director

April 02, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Esperanza Sykora, selected by what's left of the Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo board as interim director, said Monday she will continue to lead the agency until a permanent director is found.

Sykora, Clinicas' business manager, was named interim director Thursday during a meeting during which five board members resigned.

Following the highly contentious five-hour meeting, Sykora said she would serve as interim director Friday so the agency would not be without a leader that day.

However, she said she would conduct a meeting Monday with management staff to determine whether she would have support as interim director. She said if she did have support she would continue as interim director. Without a show of support, she would not.

Late Monday, after a management meeting that lasted several hours, Sykora announced she did have the support she was seeking and would continue at the helm, at least on an interim basis.


"My role is just to keep the corporation running well, to keep the organization united," Sykora said this morning.

She added, "We as a management team know how to run it. There will be no interruption in services."

Clinicas is one of the largest health care agencies in the Imperial Valley, last year serving 42,000 patients at clinics throughout the Valley and in other areas of the Desert Southwest. The nonprofit agency provides medical, dental and other health services to the community.

Sykora takes the role as interim director as Clinicas has seen its leadership numbers dwindle in recent days.

Louis Lerma, the agency's director for 19 years, officially resigned Friday.

Five of the 14 board members also resigned last week. They are Daniel Vernon, the board president, Miguel Miranda, Rodolfo Piñon, Alma Estrada and Maria Lizaola. All walked out of the board meeting Thursday as the board split over the agency's future.

Nine board members remain, but those nine were sharply criticized by Clinicas' staffers who filled the board chambers during the Thursday meeting. Staffers called for all board members to resign, stating that board members have acted in their own best interest rather than serving the interests of the community.

Following that meeting, staffers vowed to continue their fight to have the board step down and new board members voted in.

Sykora said despite such controversy she wants the community to know there is "solidarity" among the agency's management staff and the focus will be to maintain operations through the transitional period the agency is facing. She added she is unsure how long it will take the agency to find a permanent director.

The board is expected to call a special meeting this month, but had not done so as of presstime this morning. If no special meeting is called, the board will next meet at the month's end.

There are a number of issues the board will have to address, among them how to proceed with a search for a director and what to do about the five vacant board seats. The agency also must deal with financial issues that could affect its future.

Lois Graham, a state project officer for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, told the board on Thursday that Clinicas could be in default on its loan agreement with the state.

The state, through the Cal-Mortgage division of OSHPD, provided two loans to Clinicas one in 1992 that funded the building of the Calexico clinic and one in 1998 that funded the new clinic in Brawley.

The loans require that Clinicas maintain set revenue levels for the year and the agency must end years with 125 percent of its operational costs.

In 2001, Clinicas did not maintain that level of revenue, according to Clinicas' own financial reports that have yet to be audited.

If through the audit it is found Clinicas is in default on its loan agreement, Clinicas, according to the state, would have to hire a management consultant to determine how to increase revenue and cut costs.

Sykora said she already is working with management staff to determine how to improve productivity in the Calexico, El Centro and Brawley clinics. She said that will be a focus for her as interim director.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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