Incumbent Nevin House and challenger Ambar Rodriguez answer questions about serving rural communities like Ivanhoe on Kaweah Delta board of directors
For the Ivanhoe Sol’s October Issue, the Ivanhoe Sol will be providing full responses of candidates for two important races that will affect the Ivanhoe area. By focusing on the State Assembly and local Kaweah Delta Board of Directors race we hope to bring important information needed for the community of Ivanhoe to decide during the upcoming election.
As a rural community without a hospital, Visalia and Kaweah Delta are nearby resources that are essential to treating many of the issues we have addressed in our previous issues. Zone 5 of the Kaweah Delta Board of Directors includes the Communities of Goshen, North Visalia, and a portion of Southwest Ivanhoe. This position will represent Ivanhoe in the medical system and can potentially become an advocate for the health of the community since the mission the Kaweah Delta Health Care District is:
“Health is our passion. Excellence is our focus. Compassion is our promise.”
The Kaweah Delta Health Care District is governed by a board of directors made up of five publicly-elected directors, elected by zone for four-year terms. Each month, the board holds regular meetings at Kaweah Delta.
The board has the final moral, legal, and regulatory responsibility for everything that goes on in the organization.
According to Kaweah Delta, “This governing body is responsible for the safety and quality of care, treatment, and services provided district wide. This board also establishes policy, promotes performance improvement, and provides for organizational management and planning. The board’s primary responsibility is to develop and follow the organization’s mission statement, which leads to the development of specific policies in the areas of quality performance, financial performance, planning performance, and management performance.”
In this election, Ambar Rodriquez, a local history teacher and community activist is running against the incumbent, Nevin House. We have reached out to both candidates and both have returned responses to our questions below:
Question #1: Since Zone 5 includes communities like Goshen, Ivanhoe, and North Side Visalia, what experiences do you bring to understand these communities’ health needs?
Ambar Rodriguez: As a child I had to take public transportation to get to Dr. appointments at the Medi-Cal clinics in Visalia. Through my personal experiences I can relate to the hardships of lack of transportation, a parent who worked in the fields, and overall living in a lower socio economic community as a child of an immigrant. The realities of quality healthcare was scarce and navigating the health care lingo was hard to understand especially if English was not my family’s 1st language. That is why I bring the perspective of someone from the community advocating for the community.
Nevin House: I was born and lived in a town that was about 80% Hispanic. I learned the value of hard work as I hoed weeds out of my father’s cotton fields starting when I was eight years old. My first home in Visalia was a rental three blocks from the Oval. Perhaps because of those great experiences, I try to understand the medical needs of everyone in the area – every race, every age, every part of society, everyone. This is also why I support and encourage our Street Medicine program that provides outreach medical care to the local homeless population.
Question #2: Many residents in Tulare County are on Medical or Medicare, how can you best use your position to serve their needs?
Ambar Roriguez: Most patients with Medical/Medicare seek care from clinics aimed for low income or the ER. Follow up care can be frustrating such as going to another facility for lab work, scans, following up with a primary care, and so much more. I would advocate for a system aimed to navigate these confusing steps with information for visual, audio and different types of learners including different languages. Also transportation! If you get referred to UCLA or USF how are you supposed to get there? A system needs to exist to help people navigate these issues to ensure they receive the proper healthcare.
Nevin House: I continually push for additional access to specialists by our Medi-Cal, and Medicare population. In the four years I’ve been on the Board, 263 new doctors joined the Kaweah Delta Health Care District, most of them specialists. Many specialities are now available to the Medi-Cal population at our Rural Health Clinics. The new large Tulare Clinic will provide the space to add even more. We are also converting our downtown Family Medical Clinic to a FQHC so additional specialists will be available to Medi-Cal patients. Then we will convert our Court Urgent Care to our second FQHC
Question #3: How do you plan to make yourself accessible to your rural areas?
Ambar Rodriguez: During Covid restrictions, I would have to be accessible using digital platforms such as Facebook or What’s App, information drops at houses, and even my personal contact information. After Covid restrictions I plan to personally be available at the soccer fields, where they sell elotes/goodies, and even church, San Felipe De Jesus. The main focus would be to build a connection with the local leaders of the areas to attend, collaborate, and coordinate events, even beyond healthcare. So don’t be shy, let’s get some food and have a chisme session.
Nevin House: I make a point of being accessible to every employee, patient, and community member. An email address and cell number has been on my Facebook Board Member page since I joined the Board. Phone calls, emails, and letters to the hospital for me are forwarded so I can respond. I also visited many of the patients in the hospital when they or their family contacted me. That is an important part of being accessible that COVID-19 has interrupted for now and I look forward to when it will be safe to resume hospital visitation.
Question #4: What is the largest challenge that you predict encountering if elected?
Ambar Rodriquez: Navigating this pandemic will be the biggest challenge as a board member. We need to ensure our healthcare workers whether they are doctors, nurses, cafeteria workers, translators, or anyone involved with Kaweah’s health care network, are protected with the proper resources. Resources in general will help to reduce wait times and provide quality healthcare for our patients. I am dedicated to ensure the health and wellness of all patients, employees, and overall our community. A healthy community leads to a decline of Covid cases, leading to the reopening of our businesses, and overall can lead to a flourishing economy.
Nevin House: In the short run, keeping the District financially healthy. COVID-19 has significantly increased costs and decreased income. My 40+ years of managing businesses has been invaluable in understanding the complex financial, administrative, personnel, supply, and care delivery matrix that makes up this 5000-employee, 800 million dollar health care system. In the long run, continuing to add new doctors and additional specialties as we find a way to upgrade our facilities to meet the evolving state seismic requirements and expand them to provide space for new services to our growing population.
Question #5: What else would you like to let Ivanhoe know about why you are the best candidate for your position?
Ambar Rodriguez: I am someone who is truly dedicated to serving my community and will be easily accessible. I am relatable because your struggles and hardships were either mine or continue to be mine. Because of these experiences and understandings I am connected to the realities and needs of the communities of zone 5, even the rural ones. I am determined to advocate for accessibility to healthcare, resources, and pathways to keep healthcare professionals in our community. A healthy community leads to many positive outcomes and that is what I want to see, a flourishing community for ourselves and the next generation.
Nevin House: As COVID-19 continues to impact the revenue and expenses of the Health Care District, my decades of business management experience have been critical to both understanding the evolving situation and recognizing the best steps to minimize the losses. The Health Care District can then continue to provide the best medical care to every patient. My business and Board experience has proved crucial to maximizing the satisfaction and well-being of the District’s amazing employees and medical providers during this difficult time and I look forward to celebrating with them when we reach the light at the end of the COVID tunnel.