Accreditation, funding woes face health board - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Accreditation, funding woes face health board

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Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 6:30 pm | Updated: 9:39 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Voters on Tuesday elected a new board to run Maricopa County's public health system, returning an East Valley incumbent and selecting four newcomers.

The board faces economic challenges, a struggle to maintain national accreditation for its 40-year-old safety-net hospital and a potential battle with the state Legislature over federal funding.

William "Bil" Bruno of Chandler, who's been on the board since voters created it in 2003, easily beat challenger Rex P. Altree to earn a second term from District 1.

North East Valley voters elected Greg Patterson, a blogger and former state lawmaker, to District 2, and Susan Gerard, former director of the state Department of Health Services, to the District 3 seat.

The only other incumbent, Gerald Cuendet, lost his westside District 4 to Elbert "Bick" Bicknell, and voters in District 5 elected lawyer Todd Hansen.

Altree and Bicknell were part of a five-member slate endorsed by Republican insiders for the unpaid and, ostensibly, nonpartisan job. Bruno and other incumbents accused the group of planning to squeeze the district and shutter the hospital.

Voters approved the health care district in a special election in 2003, along with the board and a property tax increase to help fund it. The current board was elected the following year.

Board members administer a system that serves primarily the Valley's poor and uninsured with a $414 million budget that includes nearly $50 million in business and residential property taxes.

The centerpiece is the 450-bed Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, along with 11 clinics, two psychiatric centers, a nationally known burn unit and a health insurance plan.

It's the county's largest teaching hospital, training hundreds of doctors and nurses each year, and is among a handful of trauma centers in the state that can handle the most serious emergencies.

"I'm proud of the district," Bruno said. "We need to get that word out to the folks in the East Valley."

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