Medical Center official: ‘Catalina must have health care’

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The Catalina Island Medical Center, pictured above, must be upgraded or replaced to meet state seismic standards. The issue: how to pay for it. This week, Avalon voters rejected a tax on cross channel boat passengers. File photo

Although there are still 113 outstanding votes, it appears as though Catalina voters have rejected the $1 transit tax, or Measure T initiative. Hospital officials, and supporters had hoped the initiative would have funded a new medical center on Catalina Island.

“Of course, I’m disappointed,” said Jason Paret, CEO of Catalina Island Medical Center who quickly added that even if the measure ultimately fails, “there is a tremendous amount of good” that resulted from the campaign.

“Catalina must have health care,” said Paret, so I” think we’re going to try to work through the issues with the opponents of the measure.”

Paret said he would consult with the CIMC Board, and its nonprofit foundation, to determine whatever next steps are to be taken. First, however, Paret said he wanted to analyze the results and get more feedback from the community.

According to issues identified in local forums, some voters had concerns for the initiative as written, even if they generally supported the concept.

Among the issues were the uncertainty of proposed location, the total cost of the facility and the “evergreen” nature of the initiative.

As written, the ‘Measure T’ proposal would purportedly not have a “sunset” date, which means a date the tax would stop being collected was not specified. “For sure that was an issue,” said Paret, and “we’re willing to work on it.”

Paret said during the campaign that the board planned to seek a 40-year loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build the proposed facility. Dedicated funds from the transit tax would have then been sufficient to satisfy the debt service of the USDA loan.

He said the hospital board and proponents of a new medical center are, at some point, willing to engage with the vocal opponents of the initiative in an attempt to find common ground.

It’s way too early to talk about any future offering, said Paret, and he refused to speculate until the board and the foundation have had an opportunity to analyze the vote and speak to the community.

“We know there is a need for upgraded medical facilities in this community,” he said, “and we are willing to collaborate with those most concerned to make them become a reality.”

In the meantime, Paret said the hospital will continue to improve and upgrade the services it can within the current budget.

At press time, there were still 113 uncounted votes, but of the 948 unconfirmed ballots, 321 (34%) voted for Measure T while 445 (47%) voted against it.

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