Public input is critical for health care success in Santa Clara County

March 29, 2011 – Santa Clara County workers and community advocates on Tuesday successfully got the board of supervisors to rein in County Executive Jeff Smith’s penchant for making big decisions without any public input.

Smith had placed on the consent calendar two items that he hoped his bosses would automatically approve without bothering with public hearings. Both items had major implications for the quality of health care residents will receive and whether Santa Clara County will be ready to implement the new health care law in 2014.

First, Smith asked supervisors for $1 million so he could pay his hand-picked consultant who is supposed to help the county save money on its health care network. One year into the contract, the county already owes the consultant, Alvarez & Marsal, more than $6 million on a project that started out at $100,000.

“This makes me question our priorities,” said Robert Castillo, Deputy Chair of Santa Clara County Chapter. “This makes me question our county executive’s priorities. Our resources are limited, every department is asked to cut, cut, cut… But lo and behold, we find out today the county executive had no problem finding $1 million to pay this consultant?”

Second on Smith’s agenda –- again, one that he hoped would happen without proper public hearing — was his plan to dismantle the county’s health and hospital network and put him in charge.

Hard to believe? Read the editorial in the San Jose Mercury News that describes Smith as “mercurial” and someone who has been known to “tell different people different things.”

What was the final outcome? The board approved $500,000 for the consultant for now and called for a study session next month to comprehensively review the contract. As for overhauling the health care system that is the model across the state? To be brought back to the Health and Hospital Committee for public discussion.

Be sure to thank Emma Davis and Martin Contreras, Chapter Deputy Chair, from Valley Medical Center, who also spoke out for public services and government transparency!

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