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Palomar Health retains outside law firm to probe Brown Act violation accusation

Escondido News


Palomar Health CEO Diane Hansen.

A group alleging that the Palomar Health board of directors violated the Brown Act when it voted to contract with a new group to provide emergency medical personnel—and filed a lawsuit to back up their claim—has prompted Palomar CEO Diane Hansen to answer the accusation and to hire an independent law firm to investigate the claim.

The CEO issued this statement on August 18:

“Some of you may be aware of the lawsuit filed against Palomar Health by the ‘Citizens to Save Palomar Health’ on Friday. The lawsuit alleges the District violated California’s open meeting law (the Ralph M. Brown Act) when the Palomar Health Board voted to authorize the executive team to negotiate and sign a new contract with a physician services group—EMA/Benchmark. 

“We believe there is absolutely no merit to these allegations, and I am confident the District followed all laws. I know our Board of Directors is very aware of the requirements of the Brown Act. All Board members have Brown Act training and take their duties very seriously. We will vigorously protect Palomar Health against these accusations and will make the facts clear how we not only followed the law, but voluntarily went beyond legal requirements to make the process even more open and transparent.

 “Although we are confident all proper practices were followed, Palomar Health retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation to explore the basis of these allegations. That investigation is ongoing and the findings will be presented to the Board of Directors and executive leadership team when the investigation concludes. The ‘Citizens’ group refuses to reveal its membership or source of financing and appears to prefer our previous physician group over the health and wellness of our community. The decision by the Board and executive team to contract with EMA/Benchmark was based on their proven ability to improve quality in key areas that were ignored by the previous contractor’s leadership. Any accusations to the contrary are untrue. 

“As employees and citizens of our community, I believe it is important for you to be aware of these issues that continue to be shared publicly. I am confident this was the right decision for the health and wellness of our patients and community and am grateful to everyone who made the first week of the transition a success. I am pleased to see so many longtime Palomar Health physicians have decided to remain part of the Palomar Health family, and we welcome those that are new to the team. Together we will continue to ensure the highest quality of care for our community.”

Editor’s note: The Times-Advocate asked the Citizens to Save Palomar Health to respond to the accusation that they are not making their membership or finances public. Dr. George Kung, who is a member of the group, answered: “The info will be in our Web site which should be going live by next week.   The funding sources are confidential until the day we file for recalls.” The website will be savepalomarhealth.com.  It should be up and running by early next week, said Dr. Kung.