Dem Sen Candidate's Mismanagement of Hospital Forced County to Raise Taxes

Dem Sen Candidate's Mismanagement of Hospital Forced County to Raise Taxes

Aside from the economy, the biggest issue on voters’ minds this year is federal spending and the deficit. Voters across the political spectrum understand that the federal government can’t keep racking up charges on future generations’ credit cards. Which makes the candidacy of Richard Carmona for Arizona’s Senate seat so out-of-step. As a county hospital administrator, he amassed tens of millions of dollars in debt, refused to cut spending, and forced the county to hike taxes to cover the shortfalls. Not exactly a candidate for times calling for fiscal responsibility. 

Kino Hospital is a county-run, community hospital in Tucson, AZ. Dr. Richard Carmona was appointed by the Pina County Board of Supervisors to run the facility. He ran it for four years before his ouster in 1999. The hospital had been plagued with financial troubles before he took over, but its condition worsened under his leadership. From Tucson Weekly 6/17/1999:

Wild, uncontained costs at Kino Community Hospital and the overarching county health system have created a debt bumping up against $50 million. Kino, a small hospital by Tucson standards, is buried under $40 million in debt. And the health system lost $14 million in the last 12 months under the direction of Dr. Richard Carmona, a former Tucson Medical Center trauma surgeon who earlier chaired the county commission that recommended against spinning off Kino and the health system.

At the time, the Arizona Daily Star actually editorialized that Carmona should be fired immediately:

The Board of Supervisors should terminate his $188,000-a-year contract this morning as part of an urgent drive to stabilize a health care system in crisis. 

Carmona needs to go because Kino Hospital and the whole health system need radical change. Hemorrhaging tax money, paralyze by crisis, the system has for the four years Carmona has led it drifted further and further into crisis. 

That’s a pretty scathing indictment. But, they go further:

The ugly numbers of the county budget crisis alone implicate Carmona because they show the health system ran up at least $42 million in budget deficits–including $14 million in the last year–on his watch.

Those numbers suggest an irresponsible refusal to cuts staff and costs during a fiscal crisis. So, too, did last week’s revelation that the health care system last year may have added 200 or more employees in a year when it was already perhaps $30 million in the red and experiencing massive patient declines caused by a state cap on its indigent clients. 

The bottom line: Carmona’s record as a fiscal manager demands his ouster. 

Carmona was ousted from his position soon after this. But, in the wake of the fiscal mess he left behind, the county was forced to raise property taxes to plug the shortfalls. 

Carmona’s record at Kino seems to be the exact opposite of the experience we want in Washington. Especially considering that his opponent, Rep. Jeff Flake, is a long-standing fiscal hawk. Arizona voters have a choice between a lawmaker who has long championed cutting spending and a candidate whose profligate management and inability to cut costs led to a tax hike. Seems like a simple choice. 

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