With South Bay Hospital facing an uncertain future, one might expect the local health district election to be dominated by energetic debate about how to save the only hospital serving the beach cities.
Instead, the race is the quietest in years.
The reason is certainly not a lack of candidates. In fact, six people are running for two seats on the five-member board of the Beach Cities Health District, the public agency that owns South Bay Hospital.
But with less than a week to go before the election, not a single candidates' forum has been scheduled--and no dominant issue has emerged in the campaign.
The health district, formerly known as the South Bay Hospital District, was formed in 1955 to build and run a community hospital. In 1984, it chose to lease the hospital to the commercial American Medical International (AMI) chain for 30 years.
In return, the district receives about $3 million a year in rent, using the interest from investments to fund health-related programs in the beach cities.
That arrangement has been clouded by troubles at the 203-bed hospital on Prospect Avenue in Redondo Beach, battered by declining admissions and the loss of some major managed-care contracts. So AMI has been in private talks with other hospitals, including Daniel Freeman Hospitals, about subleasing hospital operations.
Only voters in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach will cast ballots in the race. Board members are unpaid and serve four-year terms. The candidates are:
* Challenger David E. Andrews, 40, of Redondo Beach, who manages a Radio Shack electronics store in Hawthorne and formerly worked as an economist and management consultant for a Chase Manhattan Bank subsidiary. He says he is worried about drug abuse, particularly among young people, and wants the district to do more to combat the problem.
Andrews wants to maintain the revenue produced by the AMI lease and thinks a Daniel Freeman sublease should be considered "as long as it maintains the revenue at least the level that it is now."
* Challenger M. A. (Kyle) Culley, described in county election records as an office manager, could not be reached for comment and did not respond to a mailed request for an interview.
* Incumbent Patricia Dreizler, 68, of Redondo Beach is the former Redondo Beach city director of community resources. She was elected in 1990 to the board, which she believes is working effectively to improve health care. It has stepped up its educational work and in-school programs, she said.
Dreizler says that at least a portion of South Bay Hospital should remain an acute-care facility, but needs more information before she makes up her mind about the Daniel Freeman sublease plan.
* Incumbent Ken Johnson, 58, of Redondo Beach, chief of community services for the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, was appointed to the board in 1989 and elected in 1990.
Johnson says he has worked hard to safeguard the district's $30 million in assets while supporting district programs. He has been active in discussions about the hospital's future but said it is too early to say what will emerge from talks about the Daniel Freeman sublease.
* Challenger J. Daniel Keeling, 29, of Redondo Beach is an internal auditor for Regency Home Services in Tustin, a regional home health care firm. He says his background would aid him on the board.
He questions whether the current board has a clear vision of how the district fits into the overall health care system, and he also questions how some funding decisions--such as giving $10,000 to Heal the Bay for an education program--relate to health care. But District Executive Director Robert Riley defended the grant, saying that ocean water quality affects health in the beach cities.
* Challenger Judy Swanson, 45, of Redondo Beach, a homemaker and former secretary, says the hospital should open a satellite medical office in northern Hermosa Beach or Manhattan Beach to better serve people who live in the northern part of the district.
She favors more funding for youth programs and preventive care.