LA Times: Feb. 25, 2002
VENTURA COUNTY Hospital Director Leaving His Post Services: Sam Edwards, who oversaw expansion of health clinics, says it's timeto 'slow down.'
Dr. Sam Edwards, who oversaw a controversial expansion of Ventura County'spublic health clinics and helped modernize its public hospital, is stepping downas the hospital's administrator next month.
Edwards, 64, recently told Health Care Agency Director Pierre Durand that hewanted to slow down and hand the over the reins of the Ventura County MedicalCenter to someone else.
Edwards has been on the job for seven years, leaving a private practice in SantaPaula in 1995 to supervise the Ventura hospital's 1,000 employees and$142-million budget. The hospital serves as the safety net for the county's poorand uninsured residents and has been held up as a model for how government canefficiently offer quality health care.
"It's bittersweet," Edwards said. "I believe in the mission of this hospital,and I've made a lot of good friends.... But I'm older and need a little moretime to do the things that I want to do."
Edwards, a grandfatherly figure known as "Dr. Sam" to staff members andsuperiors, will stay on to handle special projects for an undetermined interimperiod.
"Dr. Sam reflects what is best in medicine. He has been and still is a mentor tome," Durand said.
"He just wants to decrease his hours. So, in a way, I will not be losing mypartner yet."
Beginning March 3, though, the hospital will be run by Michael B. Powers, acounty attorney who has worked closely with Durand for three years.
Powers, 39, most recently has acted as the Health Care Agency's complianceofficer, making sure the hospital's billings to the Medi-Cal and Medicaregovernment insurance programs do not run afoul of regulations.
Powers previously worked in the county counsel's office and, before that, was anassociate with the Oxnard law firm of Nordman, Cormany, Hair and Compton.
Powers will earn about $137,000 a year.
Durand praised Powers' intellect and said the attorney has learned much aboutthe 223-bed hospital during his tenure as the billing compliance officer.
Powers also specialized in medical issues while working in the county counsel'soffice, Durand said.
"Mike has impressed me as someone who is not only bright but has a very highwork ethic," Durand said. "He is passionate about helping the people who needaccess to our system."
Edwards' ties to Ventura County Medical Center go back three decades. He hadprivileges at the hospital in the 1970s, was part of the teaching staff andserved as its medical director in the '80s.
During his tenure, Edwards carried out Durand's goal of setting up public healthclinics in low-income neighborhoods. That improved medical care for thosewithout private insurance and cut by half the number of costly emergency roomvisits, Edwards said."It's a lot more expensive to take care of someone in an ER than in anoutpatient clinic visit," he said.Last year, the clinics handled 325,000 outpatient visits, the doctor said.
But some of the county's private hospitals eyed the expansion with suspicion,viewing it as an encroachment on their private-pay patients.
Edwards was also at the helm as the county for years battled neighboringCommunity Memorial Hospital. Fearing competition, Community Memorial bankrolleda $1.6-million ballot initiative in 1996 that killed the county's plan to add ahospital wing and to upgrade aging facilities.
Tension between the two hospitals continued until a truce was called last year.
By written agreement, the county will not expand private-sector enrollments inits low-cost health care plan. In return, Community Memorial pledged not tostand in the way of upgrades to the kitchen and laboratory facilities.
Those improvements are underway.
Edwards will be greatly missed around the hospital, predicted veteran VenturaCounty Supervisor John Flynn.
"He knows how to run a medical system," Flynn said. "It has to be run with loveand discipline, and that's what he has."
By CATHERINE SAILLANT, TIMES STAFF WRITER