UPDATE: Ravi Johal lost his bid to be on the Washington Hospital Board.
Ravi Johal has been living and working in Fremont as a traffic and criminal attorney with the firm of Leon J. Mezzetti Jr. After a small surgery and the birth of his son made him do the rounds of Washington Hospital in central Fremont, Ravi became aware of the many niggling issues patients and their families face in their interaction with the community hospital that serves the tri-city area. Like long hours in the emergency room; not knowing right at the start what the out-of-pocket expenses are likely to be; your insurance plan not being accepted. Having the time, energy and inclination, he decided to stand for one of the two openings coming up in the Board of Directors of Washington Hospital.
I spoke to him about his message, his mission and his plans for the hospital.
What are the responsibilities of the job?
RJ: There are 5members on the board of which two are being contested. Washington Hospital is a community hospital, funded by tax dollars. The board makes sure the hospital functions properly.
What would be your mission as a member of the board?
RJ: What I would be working towards is improved accessibility to the hospital, a broader acceptance plan for insurance, expanded hours, improve emergency room services. Today if you go to the hospital during off hours, you are sent by default to the emergency room where the wait may be really long. There is room for improvement here. Our population has continued to grow but the infrastructure has not kept pace with it. I would also like to see more transparency on the board, clear estimates of your medical expenses when you or a member of your family is admitted. We also have to make sure we improve affordability. As a district hospital Washington Hospital has an obligation to the people it serves.
The other thing we can do is to try to engage people without medical coverage in basic preventive care. We can work with local pharmacies to keep costs down.
Why did you decide to contest this particular post?
RJ: I am passionate about health care and people’s right to have affordable health care. I had surgery, my wife had a baby and I was in and out of hospitals. Previously I have worked with local government and done pro bono work for the community.
Is this your first foray into politics?
RJ: It is. This is a non-partisan position.
Do you get any benefit from your affiliation to the Democratic party?
RJ:I get a lot of endorsements. (Ravi has received an impressive list of endorsements from local elected officials.)
I have heard of an email that’s been going around that has some unsavory things about you?
RJ: I wanted to run a clean campaign that focused on the issues. Friends of Washington Hospital, an organization set up by board members in Washington Hospital, have been distributing this mailer arguing that voters should be voting for the incumbents. I have dealt with the allegations on my website.
What has the previous board not been doing that you would do better?
RJ: My message is one of accountability, transparency, and making sure that hospital remains solvent while doing that.
Do you think you could manage to implement any of your ideas, given that you will be g 1 out of 5 members of the board?
RJ: That is the whole democratic process. You need to voice your opinion so that you represent the community, facilitate a change in the mechanism. One person obviously cannot do it by himself. But one person can make a change if he is active and create open dialogue and be able to work with other board members.
How is it going so far?
RJ: It is going very well. In a short period of time I have been able to speak to a lot of people. I got the endorsement of the California Nurses Association (I am the only candidate to get the endorsement). I met with nurses, listened to them and gave them my input. They play a critical and vital role in giving the patient the best possible care.
We have done a lot of walking..meeting people wherever I go. It is mostly word of mouth.
What about funding?
RJ: This is a tough economy. We ran a couple of kickoffs in the beginning. It takes $2675 to file with the registrar which I loaned that to my campaign. I have asked friends and family to help. Being a 3-city election it is much harder to target because it costs a lot.
Do you have larger political ambition?
RJ: I do not. I just want to give back to the community. I have the time, energy and knowledge to do this job.
More information on Ravi Johal at http://ravijohal.com
Other candidates for this post:
William F. Nicholson(Incumbent)
Article on debate between the candidates here at Tri-City Beat.