Guest Editorial: Boundary Study Is an Exercise in Listening

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By Gary Herbst
Kaweah Delta Health Care District
At Kaweah Delta, we have learned a lot since the 2016 defeat of Measure H, and the greatest lesson yet is the importance of listening carefully to our community. One thing the people of Visalia, Ivanhoe, and Goshen (the cities lying within the Kaweah Delta Health Care District boundaries) asked of us in 2016, was to explore all options before asking them to alone fund a general obligation bond. The 2016 bond would have helped pay for replacement of a sizeable number of hospital beds currently located within a structure that does not meet state earthquake standards. One option they wanted explored was to learn more about the possibility of merging healthcare districts or incorporating nearby communities that do not lie within any healthcare district. At the time, we said it was too complicated and too time consuming and we left it at that.  However, today, lesson learned, we are committed to listening to our community, and we want to leave no question unanswered as we work to meet the 2030 deadline to bring the older part of our hospital into compliance with State earthquake standards.
As part of that commitment, we have listened to what our community asked of us in 2016. We recently engaged with QK, Inc., an outside planning expert, to carefully study what, if any, potential opportunities might surface from a merger of neighboring districts. This is not a new subject for us. For the past 20 years, we have periodically studied a merger of healthcare districts; however, this is the most in-depth analysis that has ever been done. It has given us a greater perspective and as other studies have revealed, there continue to be pros and cons.
This is really a study prompted by our community and as such, we, along with our Board of Directors, want to involve our community in the conversation. At this point, we have no intention of doing anything more with this study other than share the findings with the approximately 300 people in our community who are meeting with us monthly as members of our Community Advisory Committees and our Ambassador groups. We are not suggesting or recommending a district merger; we have simply taken a cue from the community and explored another option. From our perspective, we are already care for people who live in Dinuba, Cutler-Orosi, and Exeter. That will not change.
After more than two years of study alongside members of our Hospital of the Future Community Advisory Community, we will most likely have to replace the 221-inpatient beds housed in the older wing of our hospital because they do not meet earthquake standards. However, we are committed to adopting an incremental approach to building new facilities that will lessen the financial impact to Kaweah Delta and the community that supports it. We are now working with a master facility planning firm to help us develop solutions to replace the building. As we learn more, we will further involve the community to gather feedback and at that time, we will listen. Working with the community has been a phenomenal experience and as a result, we know that no matter the challenge, we will end up with a better solution.
– Gary Herbst is the chief executive officer for the Kaweah Delta Health Care District.