Michael Pacheco of Valley Center is seeking a full term for his District 1 seat on the Palomar Health district board. He was appointed to the position in September 2021. District 1 includes Valley Center, Ramona, Hidden Meadows, unincorporated Escondido, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley and Julian.
Pacheco retired as a battalion chief from the San Diego Fire & Rescue service after 30 years. He is still a licensed paramedic for the state of California and has been for 39 years. He is very much involved in the community, in youth soccer and on the middle school site council. He served on the Valley Center Fire Protection District board for two terms.
“When I served on the fire board,” he said, “I was instrumental in getting us the first paramedic services in the region. Including that first contract with Mercy that created the Valley Center service area, for Deer Springs and Pauma to Lake Henshaw to Palomar. That was in large part because of my relationship with the county of San Diego and county EMS.”
Asked why he is running, Pacheco said, “I’m really passionate about what I’m doing. I truly enjoy working for the district. There are a couple of points I feel very strongly about. One is behavioral health. It’s important to have easily accessible services for patients and family. What you hear about what kids are suffering is very true. The struggle is real. I’m very passionate about being able to provide those services for others who may not be as fortunate to have connections or know the medical system like I do.”
Pacheco added, “I have a real concern and compassion for doctors and nurses.” Having served throughout the COVID pandemic, with the many hours of work and dangers in their personal lives, including exposure to an unknown virus, Pacheco wants to support their efforts.
“It’s really important that we recognize and support our nurses and doctors and team members,” he said. “I try to do that as far as I can; participating in recognition and employee events. It’s important they know that we on the board support them.”
And yet, the district has had rough employee relations that almost led to a strike earlier this year. Pacheco helped avert it: “The nurses recently had almost a year without a contract,” conceded Pacheco. “Negotiations were strained. The administrative team was working hard with the nurses to come up with a solution. It was reaching a point where everyone was frustrated by the inability to reach a deal. I was approached by the nurses association because of my union background. I was able to help with some dialogue between the CNA (California Nurses Association) and our administration and we avoided a strike. Which wouldn’t have been good for anyone.”
Other facts provided by the candidate:
I was appointed after an application and vetting process. The CEO and super majority of the board selected me as the best candidate. My opponent was one of the others in the same process.
In the Fire Department I over-saw operations for over 1.2 million people. I worked to develop policies for the entire department. I was part of the Paramedic contract compliance process.
I was part of the County EMS governance process which developed Emergency Medical treatment policies and protocols for all county paramedic services.
At VCFPD, I was instrumental in securing the first paramedics to entire north county inland region.
I served on the middle school site council for three years
Served as the President of Valley Center Youth Soccer League and coached for 10 years. During COVID, I worked tirelessly to get our children back outside on the soccer field. I worked with the CalSouth Soccer President on the statewide “Let Them Play” committee.
Palomar Healthcare is the largest public healthcare district in the state. It has been voted “Best Hospital “ by Newsweek, three (3) years in a row. We received the “Hospital District of the Year” award from the Association of Healthcare Districts, last month
Being a public healthcare district means that your tax dollars go to partially fund the the hospital district. That also means you get a voice on the the Board of Directors. I am your voice on that board.
The Directors oversee the CEO and ensures that the needs of the citizens are being met.
Palomar is currently restructuring our Certificate of Participation (COP) (bonds) financing and expect to have very favorable results. This is well underway and should be finalized very soon. The district is expected to save millions of dollars over the life of the bond repayment.
Issues Facing the District
Stability is one of the most important issues facing the district, said Pacheco. “We as a district have worked very hard to continue to bring more and specialized services to our region. It’s important that we have those services for the people that live up here.”
He continued, “I think we are underserved in this community. We were promised certain things and didn’t receive them.” He is referring to Prop. BB—approved by the voters in 2004—which included a promise for a clinic in Valley Center. “When I was interviewed for the appointment I made very clear I wanted the district to make good on that promise,” he said.
“I showed them using their own marketing that with the current growth in Valley Center, especially in Park Circle, our demographics and marketing share show the need for increased services. I went to the CEO and showed her the data.”
As a result, “We are going to increase services with Dr. Johnson’s office. Since Graybill is now part of Palomar Health, the physicians are all under us. They are going to bring in a second doctor under Dr. Johnson. When he retires, they will bring in rotating specialty services when needed, like radiology on oncology.” He added, “We will get a rotation—so our people don’t have to drive down to Escondido or San Diego. We are also working out details to provide after-hours urgent care at the same office. I took that promise to heart and I went to work on it. I believe the funding for the remodel [of Dr. Johnson’s office] was already allocated and the remodel has been done. Additional equipment will be brought in.”
Pacheco said, “Our CEO has done a great job of putting the hospital district on a sound financial ground. I know my opponent is part of a group that does not believe that. But the CEO has moved the district from red to black. We have become financially stable and increased services and facilities. We built a parking structure that we just opened. We built three medical office buildings where new services are coming in, such as the expansion of the radiology department, neurosurgery and pediatric services in combination with Rady’s Children’s Hospital.”
The district is also going to expand into the 10th and 11th floor of the hospital, adding a neonatal ICU for newborns and obstetrics, emergencies and delivery.
Pacheco concluded, “Being on a sound financial footing allows us to do that.” What about allegations that the finances are not transparent? “I believe that we are transparent,” he said. “We are undergoing an annual audit and it should be out next week. All the financials have always been available. They are online for anyone to see.”
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