Desert Healthcare District officials remained mum Tuesday on the reason for its CEO’s sudden departure, which was announced on Monday and met with outcry from several elected officials. That refrain was echoed by community members during public comments at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The district, a local government agency, has not offered any details regarding the sudden departure of Dr. Conrado Bárzaga‘s, who served the role for four years. However, Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz both said in separate statements Monday that the CEO was suddenly “removed” from his position.

Bárzaga did not respond to The Desert Sun’s request for comment.

Desert Healthcare District and Foundation CEO Dr. Conrado Bárzaga.

Chris Christensen, chief administration officer, has been appointed interim CEO.

Lift to Rise CEO Heather Vaikona spoke about the former CEO’s generosity over the years, both in her professional and personal life. She said that after she faced health struggles and the death of family members, Bárzaga was the first person to be by her side, adding he “took me to (his) house and cooked paella while I laid in (his) backyard on (his couch).” When migrants were unable to be housed at the Galilee Center and shelters on Christmas Eve, she said Bárzaga helped by taking a pregnant woman to Desert Regional Medical Center for care.

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