Hospital drops OB dept; Plaza project appealed; and the ugly truth about blight

Posted on July 26, 2018 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma Valley Hospital is going out of the baby business. Its board, confronting an overall $3.2 million budget deficit, voted to close the obstetrics department within two months. The move will save about half a million this fiscal year, principally by cutting 7.5 full-time equivalent jobs. To most in the packed public meeting on July 25, that formula did not go down well. “Many speakers were understandably passionate,” acknowledged Board Chair, Joshua Rymer. “In the end, (we) recognized that in order to continue essential emergency services that this community needs and expects, we cannot continue to subsidize services that are declining in usage and losing money.”… Beyond civic pride, investing in the hospital’s ‘birthing center’ was once thought to be a marketing opportunity, creating lifelong patient relationships. But like cries for a 4 a.m. feeding, the financial losses have been a harsh wake-up call. Since 2009, when the hospital first questioned the OB’s viability, the number of births has dropped by half. Rymer said the SVH average of two births a week is just not sustainable. Originally on the agenda was the fate of the Skilled Nursing Facility, another likely budget cut. Instead (and perhaps anticipating another public outcry?), that decision was shelved pending a 60-day study. Changes, Rymer said, are inevitable. “The hospital needs to emphasize emergency services and other healthcare services that don’t require overnight stay.”

Felice Torri, the longtime force behind the annual Relay for Life event, has big news about the Cancer Society fundraiser — it’s moving to Petaluma to be part of “Relay for Life of Southern Sonoma County.” The 24-hour team track-walk will be held at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma starting August 18 at 10 a.m. Torre was the prime organizer of the event here at Sonoma High. Now, in her 24th year as a breast cancer survivor, she’ll walk the walk as part of a bigger fundraising effort. “Please join me and be a part of this remarkable event. If you are a survivor, or know one, please join me in the survivor’s lap beginning at 10 a.m.” You can support her, or form your own team. ”It  will be a fun, entertaining, and inspirational event,” Torri says. “There will be laughter and tears. Most importantly we will walk with the comfort of knowing we are not alone in this fight for a cure.”

Wine, food, scenery, development battles…. Sonoma certainly has its appeal. In this case, the Planning Commission’s approval of an expansion of the Sonoma Cheese Factory building. The group Protect Sonoma is taking its case against the “massive renovation and expansion” of the Plaza structure to the City Council. At issue: size, scope, parking, traffic, environmental impact… the whole cheese enchilada. The council gets the final say at its meeting on Monday, July 30.

Blight was on the agenda — not literally; that was a coffee stain — at the recent Springs Alliance meeting. Residents vented about ignored, run-down buildings and weedy parking lots (We’re looking at you, old La Salette building). Truth is, there’s not much the County can do. Declared one official, “Ugly is not a code violation.”


— Val Robichaud

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