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OP-ED: Tri-City Medical Center Board Elections are Critical to the Future of Region’s Healthcare

By Bret Schanzenbach, Scott Ashton, and Rachel Beld

The Chambers of Commerce of Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Vista have had a long and vital relationship with the Tri-City Healthcare District over the decades. In fact, the Chambers were key players in the founding of the hospital nearly six decades ago. According to historical documents (referring to Oceanside Chamber President Eugene L. Geil), “As president of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Geil spearheaded the Tri-City Hospital movement and served as the first President of the Tri-City Hospital Association, which made it possible for the hospital to open on July 16, 1961.” The Presidents of the Carlsbad and Vista Chambers served alongside Geil as Chairmen of the campaign to get revenue bonds passed for the hospital. We are grateful for this decades-long partnership with the hospital.

In the nearly 60 years since the medical center opened its doors, our communities have grown tremendously, and Tri-City has expanded and developed innovative programs to meet the ever changing and complex needs of the people who call our community their home.

Over the course of its history, the medical center has certainly faced its share of challenges, ranging from periods of political upheaval on the publicly elected board of directors, to controversial decisions by prior management teams. However, over the past seven years the previously politically fraught Board of Directors has been replaced with one that is described as collegial and is now known for its collaborative decision making.

In recent years, the hospital’s executive and leadership team, comprised of experienced and highly regarded healthcare management professionals, has received seven consecutive clean independent audits of the hospital’s finances.

They refinanced the medical center’s debt through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), freeing up over $50 million in previously restricted cash, allowing for tens of millions in recent capital investment and much improved liquidity. Additionally, when faced in 2018 with the need to suspend operations of their inpatient Behavioral Health Unit due to new federal patient safety regulations related to their building, the executive team and board rose to the challenge, overcoming politically charged actions by out of town parties and local naysayers, to strike a deal with the County of San Diego that is bringing a brand new, 16-bed inpatient psychiatric health facility to their Oceanside campus.

Perhaps more importantly, the operational contract they designed will not only ensure the long term sustainability of that much needed service, but the agreement Tri-City negotiated is now the model upon which a new, innovative approach to mental health care is being deployed throughout the County.

Their clinical care continues to excel. Tri-City is regarded as among the best in the country for its heart attack and stroke treatment programs and was recently awarded five gold and gold plus awards from the American Heart Association. Their early adoption of cutting-edge robotic technology for orthopedic surgery has made them a leader in this area. The medical center is also home to the largest level III neonatal intensive care unit in the region, ensuring that our most fragile newborns have access to the best care possible. And this is only scratching the surface.

These programs are a testament to the talented physicians, nurses and other medical professionals who make up what they call the “Tri-City Family”.

The medical center remains one of the largest employers in North County and is an economic engine that generates hundreds of millions every year in local economic activity.

Tri-City is also ever present in the community, with nearly 50 partnerships with local non-profit groups and agencies as part of their COASTAL Commitment initiative, funding and supporting programs that are addressing some of our community’s unmet health needs including homelessness, poverty, access to healthy food and health services, education for our youth and much more. It’s no wonder Tri-City received the Carlsbad Chamber’s CBAD Award for Community Impact, the Oceanside Chamber’s Corporate Citizen of the Year Award, and MiraCosta College’s Philanthropist of the Year Award, among other awards, and that’s just in the past two years.

This all occurred despite an ever-changing healthcare landscape, political turmoil at all levels of government, heavy competition in the market, and, most recently, the devastating financial and operational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, Tri-City has weathered the storm.

As is the case every two years with a publicly elected board of directors, the community will soon be deciding who will occupy four of the healthcare district’s seven board seats. Three longtime and respected incumbents are retiring, creating the opportunity for a new generation of leadership to help continue Tri-City’s recent successes.

The Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Vista Chambers recently hosted a candidate forum for these four seats. There are a wide range of interests and experience represented in the slate of candidates. While a few candidates have made disparaging remarks about the hospital, several have demonstrated an understanding of the important progress that has been made and are committed to continuing to move Tri-City Medical Center in a positive direction. We encourage you to visit the Chambers’ YouTube channels to watch and learn more about the individuals running for these positions. This decision will help shape the future of the hospital and continue to push Tri-City forward.

Scott Ashton, CEO, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce
Rachel Beld, CEO, Vista Chamber of Commerce
Bret Schanzenbach, President & CEO, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce