TO: Residents of the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District
In 2007, the undersigned were members of the Sonoma Valley Health Care Coalition, a volunteer citizens group formed by the opposing factions in a divisive community dispute over a parcel tax measure needed to sustain our local hospital.
After numerous community meetings, it became clear that the public’s understanding of the role of Sonoma Valley Hospital (SVH), its operating environment, challenges and governance, was critical to the passage of any tax measure necessary for its survival. Eventually the community came together and the critical parcel tax was approved. The result is the hospital we have today.
Knowing that history, the undersigned became concerned upon learning that a number of residents and former SVH employees had voiced concerns on social media and at the hospital board meeting of July 11, 2019 about its financial health and management. In addition, a 2019 hospital-sponsored survey noted that positive opinions of SVH had declined somewhat since the last survey in 2015 and critical comments increased, many reflecting concerns about the hospital’s financial stability and unhappiness with the need for a parcel tax. Some questioned recent decisions to close the hospital’s Obstetrics Department and make changes to Home Care and Skilled Nursing.
Unbidden by critics or the hospital board, and with an objective of obtaining a factual understanding of the state of the hospital, the undersigned independently came together in July to examine the concerns raised, as well as the hospital’s responses. We have attempted to do so as honest brokers, without bias as to facts or conclusions, in hope that our observations might be useful in further discussions about the hospital or its future.
Over several months we have talked candidly with hospital critics & supporters, including a cross-section of prominent local physicians, current and former SVH executives, Board members and staff, as well as knowledgeable community “influencers.” Our objective has been to seek direct information relative to concerns raised, or that might add context and perspective about conditions and potentials at the hospital, financial and otherwise. We have also closely examined the hospital’s financial statements and independent financial audits to better appreciate its fiscal health and the conditions and decisions that have impacted it, or are likely to. Finally, we have researched relevant regulatory guidelines and, where pertinent, the experiences of similar hospitals.
“Unofficial” though it is, we hope our work can serve as an unbiased reference for the community in further discussions about its only hospital. We are confident that any omissions or oversights will be promptly brought to our attention, and we welcome them.
/S/ Steve Pease
/S/ Gary Nelson
/S/ Bob Edwards