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Commentary: Grass, Gleason, O’Harra and Chaya for Tri-City Healthcare District Board

By Jerry Kern & Chuck Lowery

Some things are more important than politics. When it comes to the health and wellness of our local community, it is critical that good people with good intentions come together to lead when the opportunity arises.

More than 60 years ago, it was local leaders from the business community who recognized the need for a hospital to serve the cities of Oceanside, Vista and Carlsbad.

The product of their vision, Tri-City Medical Center, celebrates its 60th birthday in 2021 — that’s six decades of bringing life into this world, saving lives that might otherwise be cut short, and of providing high-quality care to our family, friends, and neighbors.

The hospital has certainly faced its share of ups and downs over that time, but its recent track record shows a trend of improved quality of care, financial stability, and deeper and growing connections in the community.

Again, this comes from leadership.

As former Oceanside City Councilmembers and longtime residents of North County, we’ve been active and engaged in the hospital’s decisions for many years. That’s why we believe that now is the right time to speak up.

We are all receiving our mail ballots and will soon be choosing who will lead our communities for the next few years. Way down the ballot you will find the election for the Board of Directors for the Tri-City Healthcare District. Unfortunately, many people will choose their preferred candidate based on name recognition alone or just political party endorsements.

As we said earlier, some things are more important than politics.

We must be thoughtful about who we choose to provide governance over the hospital and pick candidates with connections in our community and a history of collaboration. We cannot afford to turn back the clock and bring back an era of disfunction at our local hospital.

This year, the choice couldn’t be clearer.

On one side you have the incumbent board chair, Leigh Anne Grass, a nurse, hospice CEO, and one of the architects of the hospital’s recent agreement with the County of San Diego to build a new mental health facility on their property.

She is running in District 5 and is joined by long time community leader and respected advocate GiGi Gleason and local attorney and former Oceanside City Councilwoman Colleen O’Harra, running in District’s 3 and 1, respectively.

Both have deep resumes of involvement at Tri-City, both on the Hospital’s Foundation Board and Healthcare District Committees, as well as decades of leadership in our community. Dr. Nina Chaya, a community advocate, practicing anesthesiologist, and physician leader at Tri-City Medical Center, is running in District 7 and brings a fresh perspective, both as a clinician and as the daughter of immigrants.

All promise to maintain local control of the hospital and promise to continue the hospital’s upward trajectory. These amazing women deserve our vote.

On the other side you have a group running as a slate of candidates claiming all manner of fiscal and operational malfeasance at Tri-City, but providing precious little evidence to support their outlandish claims. As a matter of fact, the available public information completely contradicts their platform.

They are running on the platform of bringing in an outside healthcare provider to take over Tri-City, a move that will surely result in the loss of critical healthcare services in our communities.

None of these candidates have any meaningful involvement with the hospital or in our communities and all seem completely out of touch with the reality of Tri-City in the year 2020. They do not deserve our support.

We hope the community makes the right decision and chooses Leigh Anne Grass, Gigi Gleason, Colleen O’Harra, and Dr. Nina Chaya for the Tri-City Healthcare District Board of Directors. The community’s health and wellness are in your hands.

Jerry Kern is a retired Oceanside City Councilman, educator, and Air Force veteran who has lived in Oceanside since 1975. Chuck Lowery was born and raised on Oceanside, is a proud graduate of local schools, and a former Oceanside Councilman and Deputy Mayor.

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