Hospital conflict – time to let it rest
We think it’s time to take a deep breath, step back and say, STOP.
We think the public feuding going on between loyal supporters of Carolyn Stone, former president of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, and the administrators of that hospital, has lasted long enough, is serving the interests of no one, least of all the hospital, and that the inflammatory accusations aimed at hospital CEO Kelly Mather have become sadly harsh and unseemly.
At the core of the conflict has been the need for a systemic change in the philanthropic strategy and leadership employed to help build a permanent, reliable financial foundation for Sonoma Valley Hospital.
As former hospital board president, Dr. Dick Kirk sagely observes in the adjacent Op-Ed column, change can be painful. We would add that it is not always possible for those caught in the matrix of change to embrace it gracefully. It’s ancient folk wisdom that broken eggs go into omelets. Any kind of alchemy requires transmutation, one element dissolved, merged or absorbed into another.
Too much of the criticism aimed at hospital administrators has come to sound and feel like a personal feud, and has been focused on accusations of “bullying” by Mather. That charge ignores the fact that the conflict in question, and the need for a more comprehensive and sophisticated fundraising strategy, precedes Mather’s arrival. The effort for a new foundation configuration was being unsuccessfully pursued before she entered the picture.
We have had our own issues with Mather. We initially found her management style somewhat abrasive and her media manners needlessly over-protective. So we addressed them openly with her, and found her willing to listen and change. We now have a healthy working relationship with the CEO and a high degree of respect for the job she is doing.
Running a hospital, like running a school district, is an exercise in controlled chaos because the rules of the game are constantly changing and budgets are no more reliable than the changing whims of distant policymakers.
No doubt Mather has cracked a few eggs and we know – because they talk to us – that some hospital staff do not embrace her or the change she has engineered. So be it.
Sonoma Valley Hospital appears to be on better financial ground than at any time in recent years and Mather deserves, and should get, a good part of the credit.
Carolyn and Bob Stone are also deserving of great praise, both for their personal philanthropy and for Carolyn’s leadership in helping to fund key components of the hospital’s medical services. Nothing in the evolving fundraising strategy can diminish what the Stones have done and their name will be hallowed in hospital history.
But it’s time for those who love and support them to lay this conflict to rest and move on. For that reason, after this issue, we will not publish any more letters (in what has felt like an organized parade) that simply rehash the past.
If you have something new and different to say about the hospital, fine. If not, let it rest.