Community Editorial: Hospitals See a CalOptima Headed in the Right Direction

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In recent months, our Board of Supervisors and the CalOptima board of directors caused a renaissance in governance, policy-making and procedural changes at CalOptima.

Led by Supervisor Janet Nguyen, a majority of our supervisors made clear the board’s intentions; that is, as a public agency, CalOptima will reflect a culture of transparency, accountability and community partnership.

The skeptics among us were quick to proclaim that the recent governance changes ordered by our supervisors will cause the demise of the agency. Their proclamations of doom and gloom are unwarranted, and I urge them to keep their powder dry.

Not only are this week’s observations of the agency encouraging, CalOptima is now, more than ever, poised for growth and for an even more prominent role in administering health care in Orange County, the Supreme Court’s looming decision on the future of Obamacare notwithstanding. The executives entrusted with managing CalOptima could well say, as did Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Signs of positive change are forthcoming. For example, this week, there was a decidedly more positive, collaborative tone in a CalOptima-led meeting that included physicians, hospitals, pharmacists, long-term care representatives, and others providing care to the agency’s beneficiaries.

Under the steady leadership of Interim CEO Mike Engelhard, this was evidenced by the CalOptima staff’s forthright acknowledgement of essential partnerships required for success in new programs; invitations to participate in the development of new strategies, genuine consideration of suggestions, honest and respectful acknowledgement of differences of opinion and a new meeting format that broadened opportunities for public comment.

Fair and legitimate questions from those responsible for the oversight of public agencies will prompt and incentivize committed professionals in an organization toward excellence. Strong leadership will promote institutional security in a culture that retains its focus on core mission and operational integrity.

Tremendous opportunities lie before us, and an environment characterized by mutual respect and commitment will pull us all together to achieve our shared goal: the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective medical care for the residents of our county who depend on CalOptima for meeting this need.

Julie Puentes is a regional vice president at the Hospital Association of Southern California and a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board.

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