The Cambria Community Healthcare District (CCHD) is in financial trouble. This fact is not new information to the Board of Trustees of the CCHD. The financial decline has been occurring over the past five years. When you do something over and over again, it starts to become a habit. The CCHD has developed the habit of having its cash expenditures exceed its cash receipts.
Now the day of reckoning has come. The trustees’ backs are against the wall and, unless something changes, the CCHD will run out of cash to pay the bills well before 2018 ends. A group of concerned citizens (Iggy Fedoroff, Laurie Mileur and I) has been raising the red flag concerning the CCHD’s deficit spending for more than a year. This group of concerned citizens even developed and presented to the administrator and trustees a seven-point plan to save money, reduce costs and break the habit of deficit spending. The suggested cost-saving plan could have been implemented by the administrator with direction from the trustees without impacting or reducing the level of ambulance service to the taxpayers of Cambria, San Simeon and the rural areas.
Well, as you know, breaking bad habits is hard to do. To break a bad habit, you first need to have the will. It appears that the administrator and the majority of the Board of Trustees could not find the will to stop deficit spending without impacting ambulance service.
On March 21, 2018 the trustees held two separate meetings. The first was a “planning workshop” during which CCHD staff and an outside consultant presented a plan to reduce ambulance service by eliminating one 12-hour ambulance shift between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. This represents a 25 percent reduction in ambulance service to the taxpayers. The second meeting was the regularly scheduled monthly meeting and provided the opportunity for trustees to formally review the proposal presented at the “planning workshop” before they voted on the plan to reduce ambulance service. By now you know the end of this story. Yes, the trustees voted 4-1 to reduce ambulance service by 25 percent. Trustee Barbara Bronson Gray was the sole dissenting vote. Well, don’t get mad yet. There is more to this story.
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We need to look at the financial impact of this decision. Earlier in the day, at the “planning workshop,” the CCHD staff quantified the financial impact of the ambulance service reduction. In their slide presentation, they showed that the current expenses per ambulance transport of $2,836.38 would be reduced to $2,591.86 as a result of the 25 percent reduction in ambulance service. This reduction of $244.52 represents an 8.6 percent reduction in the expenses per transport. Now here is where I need your help doing the math. We give up 25 percent of our ambulance service so CCHD can reduce the cost of an ambulance transport by only 8.6 percent. Not much of a value proposition here, is there? Now is the point in the story that you can get mad.
We the taxpayers of Cambria, San Simeon and the Rural Areas expect and deserve better. CCHD should go back to the drawing board and first cut overhead expenses before cutting our ambulance service.
Bill Rice is the former chief financial officer of Community Health Group.