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Health care district to fund robots

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Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 9:21 am | Updated: 7:33 am, Fri Jul 5, 2013.

At a Wednesday night meeting, budget was on the brain of the Mark Twain Health Care District Board, which – after allocating additional funds to community support – will still be in the black, albeit only by $535.

Programs and events in 2013-14 will be given $139,100, up last year from $83,600, and $54,800 two years ago.

One of the major projects is headed up by Dr. Randy Smart’s outpatient telehealth program, which has already begun in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

 “You’d think you’re on ‘Star Trek’ or something,” Smart said of the state-of-the-art robots.

He asked the board for $30,000 in funding for the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

In place of the program’s original emphasis on behavioral health, robots will now aid patients with pulmonary issues, at least in its beginning Board President Lin Reed was in favor of the project’s new kick-start focus.

“It’s not duplicating an existing service, but instead filling a new gap,” she said.

Smart said it’s proven that outpatient pulmonary care decreases the readmission of patients. Plus, the hospital already has a credentialed group of pulmonologists in place, and Smart hoped to employ a “cost-sharing effort” by hiring a nurse to coordinate the telehealth clinics.

He estimated the program will likely be up and running in late August or early September. The Enterprise will meet with Smart next week and provide an informational report of the telehealth program.

Other program funds will likely be directed to the Resource Connection Food Bank. Jeannie Hayward approached the board and requested $5,000 to assist the food bank’s work within Calaveras and Amador counties.

In 2012, 1,259,035 pounds of food were given to hungry families, according to the food bank’s 2012 annual report. It also said an average of 1,255 families per month came into the food bank for nourishment, compared to 2008, when the average number of families served a month was 71.

While in budget talk, the board discussed this community resource, which may be aided with the $11,000 miscellaneous funds.

As for the board’s investments, board Executive Director Daymon Doss said it currently holds about $1.7 million in certificates of deposit through Umpqua Bank. He suggested the board continue making safe, thoughtful investments.

“It is the public’s money, after all,” he said.

To improve investment decision-making, board secretary Dr. Peter Oliver suggested an outside person or entity be involved. As such, $16,000 was set aside for a financial consultant to assist the board in money matters.

In other news, the Local Agency Formation Commission, which reviewed the county’s fire districts this year, may be called upon to do a municipal service review for the health care district. The most recent LAFCo review was done in 2005, Reed said, and Doss added an updated version was long overdue.

 “It’s an opportunity, really, for the health care district to tell its story with LAFCo,” Doss said. The review will likely be completed in early 2014.

To give the community an annual update, the district board will also issue a report in October. In 2010, it created an informative pamphlet, and a similar style may be given out again to notify the public of spending and projects. Doss said this item is the last to be addressed in the grand jury’s two-year investigation, and the board expressed enthusiasm over having developed a positive relationship with the jury and having exceeded the standards it had set.

The next board meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 24, in Classroom 3, at 768 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas.

© 2015 Calaveras Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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