HEALTH – County Search for New Health Chief Into Home Stretch
After months of searching, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appears close to choosing a new director for its troubled Department of Health Services.
The supervisors have been presented with 10 candidates for the top job by search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. and have interviewed half of them. The remaining interviews could be completed as soon as this week.
The search has progressed better than many expected when former director Mark Finucane announced he would step down at the end of June, given the department’s looming budget deficit caused by a loss of federal funding.
Finucane was chosen in 1995 out of a final field of six. At the time, the department was on the edge of bankruptcy.
Unlike 1995, the names of the final candidates may never be made public. Although county regulations require it, the Board has agreed to waive the requirement to meet some of the candidates’ concerns that they may jeopardize their current positions if their names are publicized.
WellPoint Health Networks Inc. looks to have a battle on its hands in its $1.3 billion bid to purchase CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield of Maryland.
The state’s hospital association opposes the conversion of CareFirst, the leading insurer in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia with 3.1 million members, from a non-profit to a for-profit insurer a key shift for the deal to go forward.
The Association of Maryland Hospitals and Health Systems reviewed a possible conversion earlier this year and found that any benefits, such as creation of an endowment for indigent care, would not make up for profit-driven behavior, such as dropping unprofitable insurance lines that would raise the number of uninsured.
On top of that, Thousand Oaks-based WellPoint has a reputation of driving a hard bargain in its hospital contracts. “It’s certainly going to be an uphill battle (to halt the conversion and sale) but we are going to try,” said Nancy Fielder, an association senior vice president.
WellPoint won’t directly comment on the hospital’s position.
Last year, the California Nurses Association lost a bitterly contested election to organize nearly 1,300 nurses at Long Beach Medical Center by just 10 votes. Last week, the National Labor Relations Board certified a 107-vote union victory in a vote taken Nov. 14 and 15 the ninth victory this year for the union at Southern California hospitals.
The union claims this year’s win has roots in last year’s defeat, which prompted the CNA to file unfair labor practices charges against the hospital for its tough anti-union campaign. To settle the matter, the hospital agreed not to partake in such union busting practices as interrogating employees on their union sympathies.
Staff reporter Laurence Darmiento can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 237 or at