George Boardman: Dignity Health can’t get love, magical thinking, and first impressions count |

George Boardman: Dignity Health can’t get love, magical thinking, and first impressions count

George Boardman
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Observations from the center stripe: Survivor edition

AFTER THE next round of closings, the Grass Valley Kmart will be one of just 182 Kmart and Sears stores left in the country. That’s down from 2,000 five years ago … I’M GUESSING California is the only state that will soon induct a drag queen (that would be RuPaul) into its hall of fame … I NEVER thought I’d write this so soon: The Sacramento Kings are better than the Golden State Warriors … HOW TIMES have changed: If the 49ers lost to Seattle by three points last year, it would have been considered a moral victory. This year, it’s a disaster …

Dignity Health, whose affiliates include Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, has been promoting the concept of human kindness in its marketing, but it’s not getting much love from activists who don’t like the way Dignity practices kindness in the real world.

The latest incident occurred in Sacramento, where Dignity backed out of a sponsorship deal to put its name on Broadway Sacramento’s theater-in-the-round, where it produces the popular Broadway at Music Circus series every summer.

Dignity withdrew from the deal after protests from the capital city’s LGBTQ community over the health system’s policy of denying gender-affirming surgery for transgender individuals. Evan Minton of Sacramento is currently suing Dignity for canceling his hysterectomy two days before the surgery was scheduled to take place.

“We didn’t want our partnership to become a distraction as Sacramento Broadway opens a new season,” said Laurie Harting, president of Dignity’s Greater Sacramento division. “After discussion with Broadway Sacramento and a number of community stakeholders, we have agreed that the best course is to find another way to support Broadway Sacramento’s work.”

Earlier this year, protests scuttled a planned partnership between Dignity and UCSF Medical Center. The two entities have been negotiating for three years over plans to share branding and medical services, but UCSF backed out of the deal after pressure from community activists.

Dignity, formerly Catholic Health Care West, abides by “ethical and religious directives” that reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church. As a result, Dignity hospitals prescribe restrictions for abortions, contraceptives, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, and end-of-life procedures such as assisted suicide that are not popular with a wide swath of the population.

Faith-based medical providers received a big boost from the Trump administration earlier this year when it proposed a rule making it easier for health providers to refuse to provide any medical care to which they have religious or moral objections.

They have also lobbied for a rule that would undermine enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provision, especially bans on discrimination related to gender identity, sex stereotyping and termination of pregnancy.

Dignity’s defenders point out that the system is the largest provider of MediCal services in northern California, that it was among the first to offer services in response to the AIDS crisis in the ’80s, and that it recently partnered with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to hold a conference on transgender care in San Francisco.

I think we can safely say the days of Dr. Kildare are over.

Magical thinking?

When Nevada City recently doubled the rate for parking meters, it said the new rate would generate an estimated $276,000 a year in revenue, up from $100,366 in fiscal year 2018-19. In other words, a 100% increase in price would result in a revenue increase of 175%.

The implication that people are eager to pay more to park in the Queen of the Northern Mines contradicts every economic model ever developed. Revenue tends to flatten out or decrease when prices are increased. When a corporation manages to increase revenue after raising prices 4 or 5%, it’s lauded by Wall Street as a market leader with pricing power.

Granted, Nevada City has a monopoly on metered parking in the town and there are plans to add more parking spaces, but past behavior is working against the town. You can achieve a 100% increase in revenue if the same number of motorists are willing to pay 50 cents for the same number of hours they consumed when the rate was 25 cents an hour, but experience tells us that’s not going to happen. Some people will start shopping elsewhere, and others will curtail their use of metered parking.

Nevada City would have to replace that lost revenue while encouraging new people to use metered parking to hit the 175% mark. I sent City Manager Catrina Olson an email seeking an explanation of how the town is going to hit $276,000 in revenue, but she didn’t reply. She may have been preoccupied with other matters such as the potential removal of Mayor Reinette Senum or the recall of the other city council members.

Until I hear otherwise, I’m going to chalk this up to magical thinking.

First impressions

It’s no secret that Nevada County law enforcement agencies have a hard time recruiting and retaining personnel because nearby cities and counties pay more, so I took notice recently when I saw a recruitment ad for the sheriff’s office next to one for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

The ads, on the cover of the Valley Yellow Pages edition that covers Auburn and the nearby area, announced that each department was hiring. It’s the image each ad projects that caught my attention.

The Nevada County ad shows a dirty patrol car next to what appears to be a stagnant pond of water. The picture was shot in woods, probably after the vehicle was used to bust some guy for growing 10 illegal pot plants.

The Placer County ad shows the sheriff’s patrol boat cruising across a blue lake with a cloudless sky in the background. Except for the sheriff’s insignia on the side of the craft and the absence of bikini-clad lovelies, it could be an ad for the manufacturer or some tropical paradise.

Guess which sheriff’s office looks more attractive to me.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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