Support the future of our community hospital by voting Yes on Measure F by November 2
Opinion by Bill Boeurum
For over 70 years Sonoma Valley Hospital has been our community hospital providing close-to-home services and critically important emergency services. In turn, the hospital has been supported by the community with its patronage, philanthropic giving, and taxes. Now, we again ask for your support as voters and taxpayers to extend the current $250 annual parcel tax on property by voting your mail-in ballot for Measure F by the Nov. 2 deadline.
Our financial situation is driven by the mix of our patients. Medicare and Medical represent almost 75% of the payments we receive for the care provided. Those reimbursements do not cover the costs of the care. We lose money on those programs. In a recent year the difference was $9,000,000. Other forms of payment – commercial insurance and cash pays – do not offset those losses. Every year we are left with a deficit. Contributing to our operating challenges have been hospital industry trends dramatically away from inpatient procedures and to shorter hospital stays. We have seen this in our own operating figures.
As a long-time board member and currently treasurer of the Health Care District which governs the hospital for the community, I can assure you that conscientious efforts have been made and will continue to be made to manage expenses without affecting the quality of care. Sonoma Valley Hospital is an enterprise and in an industry which is people intensive, and expensive to operate.
We have been more than pleased by the community’s philanthropic support of our capital raising campaigns for the physical plant of the hospital. Two campaigns have raised over $32 million to improve our emergency facilities and surgical suites, and for a soon-to-open, outpatient diagnostic center. But these funds have not gone to on-going operations.
Another positive factor in sustaining the hospital in the community is the leadership in administration and at the board level. We have a new CEO, John Hennelly who already has demonstrated a collaborative approach with the board of directors and in community engagement. John has reached out with 15 speeches before community groups and many other informal contacts. He is recruiting a new Chief Financial Officer and just has hired a new Director of Information Technology, who is responsible for getting new systems to communicate with our affiliate, UCSF Health.
As to the district board of directors, I point out that we have two new members on our five-member board bringing new perspectives and insights. In terms of community representation, I point out something that few people know — that the board is advised in its monthly decision-making by four committees (quality, finance, governance, and audit) which have a total of 14 community members.
A vital part of our financial planning for the next ten years is the parcel tax to partially offset operating losses. Please join me – sometimes a critic of past board and hospital decisions – in supporting the future of our community hospital by voting Yes on Measure F by casting and mailing your ballot.
Bill Boeurum is a member of the Sonoma Valley Health District Board of Directors. The Sonoma Valley Sun agrees with this call for a yes vote on Measure F.