The Cambrian

North Coast has a new healthcare district administrator

The Cambria Community Healthcare District building on Main Street.
The Cambria Community Healthcare District building on Main Street.

The North Coast’s healthcare district has a new, full-time administrator, who brings to his new job more than three decades of emergency-services experience and some previous working knowledge of his new employer.

Mike McDonough, 58, worked for a short time as a part-time paramedic for the Cambria Community Healthcare District. After a brief formal recruitment period, the district’s board of directors unanimously voted to hire him Aug. 21, with annual salary of $130,000 plus benefits and incentives.

McDonough is North Coast’s second new special-district leader hired this year without specific experience in leading a special district. In June, the Cambria Community Services District hired a general manager with decades of experience as a naval officer, in the aerospace industry and as head of an executive-search business, but who had previously not headed up or worked for a special district, large or small.

McDonough’s experience ranges from direct patient care to administrative leadership and teaching/administration at U.C. Santa Barbara, Cuesta College, Santa Barbara City College, Allan Hancock College and National College of Technical Instruction. McDonough holds related certificates and degrees from George Washington University (master’s), American Public University (bachelor’s) and Allan Hancock, among others, and he’s a doctoral candidate at University of New England.

He’s also a certified instructor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

His training and experience include planning for disasters, which he said is a crucial task for the North Coast. “What if we have an earthquake, natural or man-made disaster?” he said. “If Highway 1 goes down, we’ll become an island. We’ll have to be self-sufficient, and that takes preparedness.”

“I’ve been involved in emergency medical services since I was 20,” McDonough said in an Aug. 23 phone interview. “Now I’m here to enhance the great work that’s already been done” in the district. “My initial role is to assess what we have. At first glance, I’m very pleased with the district, which offers wonderful service. But I don’t want to rest on our laurels.

“There’s always room for improvement, especially because healthcare is evolving almost on a daily level.”

He knows well the challenges and the rewards faced by paramedics in a remote, rural area. “As a paramedic here, you have to practice medicine because of the significant transport time” to the hospitals, he said.

Conversely, in South County, “there’s a three-minute transport time, and the paramedics barely have enough time to get an IV started.”

This is “rural medicine, rural healthcare,” he said of CCHD’s purview, with a “small but robust population … I have ideas to improve that healthcare delivery, along with the changing national face of healthcare” and the restraints of the district budget.

McDonough and his wife, retired paramedic Jody McDonough, are purchasing a Lodge Hill home, but in the meantime, he’ll be staying at a local motel most nights, commuting home to Lompoc on weekends and occasional other nights.

“This is not just a job,” he said. “We really want to be part of the community.”

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