PIERRE DURAND: Controversial Health Director in Spotlight
Ventura County Health Care Agency Director Pierre Durand, "a bureaucrat who thrives on the controversies that have shadowed his steps since he took control of the county hospital 12 years ago," will be in the spotlight this week with the release of the state Department of Mental Health's audit of mental health programs under Durand's control. Yesterday's Los Angeles Times traces the Peruvian-born Durand's ascension to the county's top jobs, noting that his tenure is marked by bold gestures -- he once fired 200 employees in order to revamp the beleaguered county hospital -- but that he cares enough "to rescue a public hospital and clinic system that serves the poor and uninsured." Durand has been known to get things done. "He is a no-nonsense person. He has a reputation for getting systems in order," says County Supervisor John Flynn. He is responsible for creating a "health-maintenance organization system that competes with private hospitals to provide care for county workers, and he has built a controversial clinic system that pulls pregnant women -- the money makers of poverty medicine -- from every part of the county for delivery at the public hospital in Ventura," the Times reports. County Board Supervisor Judy Mikels says that Durand "has done his job. He has increased access to health care for people in the county and he has done it without increasing the taxpayer's contribution. And he has done it in a manner that shows respect and compassion for patients." Durand "has been a central figure in a controversy over mental-health services that has split the county Board of Supervisors, prompted state and federal audits and forced the departure of the county's top mental health officials," the Times reports. Whatever the audit's findings, "supporters say, Durand is sure to respond with precision and the support of his bosses" (Saillant, 5/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.