As new director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, Pierre Durand’s first and perhaps most important task will be naming his replacement as head of the county’s public hospital.
Durand, credited with rescuing the Ventura County Medical Center from financial disaster, said the director’s job is so difficult that he is considering reorganizing management of the hospital and its seven satellite health clinics.
But he declined to elaborate on the proposed reorganization. He said he wants to discuss his options with Chief Administrator Lin Koester before arriving at any final decisions.
“I need a little more time to do some analysis,” Durand said. “I think it will be a few weeks.”
Meanwhile, both Durand and Koester said they opposed the merger of the Health Care Agency and the Public Social Services Agency, a proposal that had been under study by the chief administrator’s office in recent weeks.
The Board of Supervisors in May had asked Koester and the county’s Personnel Department to look into consolidating the two agencies to save money.
But Durand and Koester said such a consolidation would have created a giant bureaucracy more difficult and expensive to manage than the separate departments. “It would have been a mega-agency and that just didn’t make any sense,” Koester said.
He said he is confident Durand will be able to find more creative ways to cut costs in his new job as director of the Health Care Agency.
Koester said his decision to appoint Durand to the $108,500-a-year post was an easy one. He said Durand, who has worked for the county for more than 20 years, has proven his skill as a strict financial manager.
“He’s intelligent, quick and hard-working,” Koester said. “He also impressed me as the kind of guy I can work with. There was no reason not to appoint him.”
Durand, 48, served as the county’s chief deputy auditor-controller for 12 years before being assigned as health agency financial officer in 1986. He was appointed assistant health care director in 1988 before taking over as administrator of the 1,200-employee hospital in 1990.
Durand, who holds a doctorate in public administration, has served as temporary director of the Health Care Agency since the death of its former head, Phillipp K. Wessels, in March. The agency includes the county hospital, medical examiner’s office and mental health services.
Dr. Samuel Edwards, medical director of the county hospital, said he believed that Durand would excel in his new job.
“He has a masterful ability when it comes to financial matters,” Edwards said. “And he is tough enough to make tough decisions. Most managers get to the brink and then they blink, they can’t make things happen. But he’s not that way.”