PHOENIX – “If we didn’t have a burn center …” is the line used by Boyd Smith, the Yes on 480 Committee’s poster boy to increase property taxes to provide more funding for Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS), a special taxing district (HB 2530) signed into law by former Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2003.
Smith was severely burned in a house fire and claims he wouldn’t be alive today “if we didn’t have a burn center.”
Remember Jason Schechterle?
He’s the former Phoenix police officer who was badly burned and disfigured in 2001 when his squad car, which immediately burst into flames, was rear-ended by a taxi cab driver whose vehicle was exceeding 100 miles per hour.
Schechterle was chairman of the original campaign in 2003 to get voters to approve property taxes to assist with funding for the newly formed tax district that has since expanded services at MIHS.
Back then, Schechterle was trotted out to fear monger taxpayers into passing the initiative, threatening closure of the burn center if it didn’t pass.
Well, no one had plans to close the burn center then, nor do they now.
Supporters of Proposition 480, include Edmundo Hidalgo, president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc., an organization that supports illegal immigration; Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; Arizona Forward, a liberal organization which claims to unite the “strong values and durable mission of the balance between environmental quality and economic growth” officially transitioning to a “statewide sustainability agenda” in 2013; Urban League; Tempe Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Arizona; his daughter Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor, and a number of nurse, hospital employee, police and firefighter unions and associations.
While the bill signed into law by Napolitano created a special taxing district for Maricopa County property owners, the hospital, the fifth largest in the United States, which includes the only burn unit in Arizona, back then served approximately 3,600 patients per year.
Former Maricopa County Supervisor Betsey Bayless, a 40-year career politician, was named president and CEO of MIHS, serving in that capacity for seven years until resigning in 2013.
Bayless, with no credentials or previous experience in the health care industry, was able to not only broker a salary of $368,000 for starters in 2008, a subsequent raise to $375,000 and, on the cusp of her retirement in February 2013, received a 33 percent raise, overnight, to $500,000.
The raise was approved by the five-member board of directors by a vote of 3-2, which claimed they would have to pay her replacement at least that much.
In the September 2013 announcement of Bayless’ retirement, MIHS stated it was able to accomplish the following:
- Opened a new Pediatric Emergency Center at the Arizona Children’s Center, dramatically improving the way we deliver care to our youngest patients.
- Made significant upgrades at the Comprehensive Healthcare Center and our Family Health Centers, where our top quality doctors, nurses and medical staff provide care to an increasing numbers of residents, regardless of their ability to pay.
- Created newly renovated Labor and Delivery Rooms, a new cardiac facility and new imaging equipment. Nearly 300 patient rooms have been upgraded.
- Implemented a new electronic medical record and finance system that gives our medical staff access to nearly 300,000 patient records, including up-to-the-minute lab results.
These expanded services to people unable to pay were accomplished by taxing Maricopa County property owners.
Notice there’s no mention of the burn unit, which serves the entire state through the property taxes of only one of the state’s 15 counties.
The retirement announcement also states: “Bayless led efforts to make major investments in the public health system, installing state-of-the-art equipment and upgrading our facilities to make them more attractive and friendlier to our patients and staff.”