As of the Town Crier’s publishing deadline, two doctors had secured the two open seats on the El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors: Peter C. Fung and George O. Ting.
With 74 percent of the votes counted, Fung led with 25,337 votes, or 38.06 percent. Ting followed with 24,630 votes, or 37 percent. Former Mountain View mayor Mike Kasperzak received 10,904 votes, or 16.38 percent, while James Davis, labor champion and former Sunnyvale city councilman, trailed with 5,700 votes, or 8.56 percent.
“So it’s too early to pop the champagne?” Fung joked Nov. 8 about the ballots still to be tallied.
Fung, the only incumbent in the race, said he couldn’t see anyone catching up to him.
What does it mean for the hospital district? Both Fung and Ting campaigned on platforms that centered on using Silicon Valley technology to boost the hospital district’s quality of care and enacting best practices for cost management to keep the public hospital district profitable and effective in spending its tax revenue.
Although both are longtime doctors at El Camino Hospital, Fung, a neurologist, and Ting, a nephrologist, formed varied opinions on other issues the district faces. A key difference includes the most efficient way to retain physicians in the ever-competitive Bay Area health-care market. Fung is on record as saying that “fostering an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect (with staff)” is sufficient. Ting, however, believes forming clinical partnerships is essential in keeping the hospital independent and would “prevent one set of physicians from dominating the business.”
Fung said Ting focuses too heavily on physician partnerships and hopes to convince him to get on board with partnerships with select providers instead, such as with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for its neonatal research and Palo Alto Medical Foundation for its advanced pulmonary and cardiovascular services. Fung has the remaining board members convinced of this already, he said, and wants the board to remain cohesive.
While El Camino Hospital raked in a record $187 million in fiscal year 2017-2018, Fung fears that predicted future obstacles – for example, a decrease in reimbursement from insurance companies and the government – could negatively impact the health care district if not addressed, and Ting worries that payment models could change.
During their editorial interviews with the Town Crier, Fung suggested setting up free and subsidized health clinics to ensure care for all who live within the district’s borders. Ting called for transitioning to a financial structure based on value or population management over volume of services to accommodate the changing reimbursement rates.
Fung said he is glad to work with Ting but concerned about whether his fellow physician will stay loyal to his anti-privatization stance for El Camino Hospital. In the 1990s, the hospital district board voted to “de-district” and sell the hospital off to Shoreline Healthcare Center, a decision an explanation on the hospital’s website chalks up to “succumbing to market pressures.” By 1999, the hospital returned to the district control model.
Ting had a large hand in the privatization effort as chief of the medical staff, Fung said, and convinced physicians to go along with it.
“I was surprised voters did not have a sharp memory,” Fung said. “He admits it was a mistake, but no one talked about it. No one wrote about it. Even though he says he is against privatization now, he should remember this (happened). We cannot go sell to Sutter (Health) or someone like that.”
‘Going on a blind date’
Ting acknowledged that he and Fung have disagreed on issues in the past, but he was optimistic that the best approach is to start fresh and study the work the board has done prior to his arrival.
“I want to be sure of the work that they have invested in before I plan to change anything,” Ting said. “I don’t plan to be contentious or radical. The worst thing is when a newcomer has all of these assumptions and (causes) turmoil. I work best collaboratively.”
Ting compared getting to know his fellow board members and beginning his four-term to going on a blind date.
“I’d like the board to get to know me as a person, I would like to get to know them as individuals and as a board, and I will listen carefully and with an open mind to come up to speed,” he said.