After nearly a year of uproar, countless contentious meetings, dozens of yard signs and more letters to the editor than any other topic we can recall, it’s almost over.
We are, of course, referring to Measure B, which would cap the property assessments for a new Plumas District Hospital at $50 per $100,000 of assessed value. Ballots for the special all-mail election are due next Tuesday, Aug. 31. Results will be posted that night at plumasnews.com.
No matter the outcome, which is anything but clear, one thing we do know: we are better off than Modoc County.
After a recent vacation to Modoc, one of our staff members reported seeing purple-and-white Save Our Hospital signs. That sent us to the Modoc Record website for more information.
The situation, in short: Modoc has a county-owned hospital, Modoc Medical Center, in Alturas. The center has operated in the red for years. The county has bailed it out repeatedly — to the tune of $12 million.
But here’s the really messy part: the county used restricted funds to do so. Restricted funds, by law, are intended for particular purposes and can only be spent for those purposes. Modoc is now in the position of having to pay back that $12 million.
The situation has yielded not one, but two ballot measures for the November election. One would establish a hospital district, thereby converting the county-owned hospital into a district hospital.
The second would allow the county to sell $12 – $15 million in bonds to get itself out of debt. Among the hurdles to such a plan, the county has not formally adopted its audits going back to 2007 – 08. Such accounting paperwork is necessary to support a bond issuance.
The fallout from the situation has been widespread. Staff members have been fired, and elected officials have been voted out of office. The grand jury has looked into the situation, and a citizens’ group, the Monday Night Group, has asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate.
The mess threatens to bankrupt the county. Modoc even asked the state for a bailout. In an unusual display of fiscal common sense, the state said no.
Our vacationing staff member spoke to several people in Modoc. One, a clerk at the Likely General Store, said she was voting against the hospital measure. She said she would just go to Cedarville for medical care. Cedarville?
Turns out the Surprise Valley Health Care District (Cedarville is the population center for the valley) supports a medical center. This is noteworthy, we think, given that the population of the Surprise Valley is about 1,250. The population of the Plumas Hospital District is more than 5,000. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from SVHC.
Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, surely we can come together to find ways of meeting our future healthcare needs. The task will be a lot easier for us than it will for Modoc.