I am appalled at the character assassination of Lynn Westberg and the subsequent degradation of San Juan Basin Health. I served on the Home Health Care Board of San Juan Basin Health for more than 20 years. It always was my experience that Westberg was both competent and compassionate. For the length of my service, I witnessed continual budget shortfalls from primary funding sources.
Because Westberg had to be creative and resourceful in light of insufficient funds and the fact that there were few straight-line allotments, she, in consultation with her co-workers, had to find ways to cover the most important health-care needs of La Plata and Archuleta counties. When Mercy opened its home health-care service, it absorbed most of the paying home health-care patients, leaving San Juan Basin Health with the indigent patients who have no way to reimburse the department. Westberg and her co-workers had to find ways to cover the costs or stop patient care.
Moreover, Westberg had to juggle three fiscal year funding sources. Current board member Bob Ledger said, "I don't think it's reasonable to suggest that the budget is in dire straits or in deep trouble." He continued, "there have been problems with the budget," but said, "they were manageable."
The former Durango city manager echoes what I suspect every country health department's funding problems are: chronic funding shortfalls from the feds, state and county in a four-decade political climate of a general refusal by taxpayers to shoulder public fiscal responsibilities. For as long as I have known Westberg, she has carried out her public-health responsibilities with courage, competence and compassion in difficult circumstances.
The state Legislature's mandate that counties "take a fresh look at their public-health agencies" leaves a huge opening for political agendas and corporate intrigues. The charge of mismanagement by some of our county commissioners may have deeper currents than the naked eye can see. Whether this is the case needs to be clarified. In the meantime, I stand steadfastly behind the co-workers and director of our public-health agency.
Dennis W. Lum, Durango