A health-care executive who turned around a flagging Modesto hospital has been appointed director of the fiscally strapped Ventura County Health Care Agency.
Phillipp K. Wessels, 47, the former administrator of Modesto's Scenic General Hospital, is expected to start Nov. 9. He succeeds Dr. Sarah L. Miller, who retired from the county in July and is now deputy director of Santa Barbara County's health-care services.
As director, Wessels will preside over the Ventura County Medical Center, six outlying clinics, two mental-health-care facilities, a drug and alcohol program and the county coroner's office. The Ventura County Health Care Agency employs about 1,200 persons and has a $73-million annual budget, said Pierre Durand, the agency's director of finance.
Wessels takes over an agency plagued in the past year by mismanagement, funding problems, employee layoffs and billing that fell 18 months behind. This summer, the county was forced to bail out the agency with a one-time $6-million payment scrounged from reserves and countywide budget cuts. That money isn't available next year, say county officials, who add that the agency will either have to prune operating costs or cut some services and possibly close some clinics.