Hospital wing nears completion

Sonoma Valley Hospital is nearing completion, both on its state-of-the-art emergency room and surgical center, and in its $11-million capital campaign to finish funding the new wing.

Set to open in November, the new west wing will house emergency services on the ground floor, with an expanded surgical center on the second floor. While the bulk of construction was covered by the $35-million general obligation bond Valley voters passed in 2008, another $11 million was required to purchase the medical equipment and other costs the bond funds didn’t cover. The hospital launched an $11-million capital campaign to bridge the financial gap, which has reached $8.9 million in donations, including a recently fulfilled, $2 million matching challenge grant from Les and Judy Vadasz.

Following the generosity of the Vadaszes, last week Sonoma residents Arline and Buddy Pepp posed their own challenge grant when they agreed to match any donation, up to $250,000.

“Arline and I are thrilled that Sonoma Valley Hospital will have a state-of-the-art emergency care and surgery center,” said Buddy Pepp. “The residents of Sonoma are unbelievably generous. We are pleased to help as we enter the final phase of the fundraising for the new facility. I’m confident that the fantastic addition will attract superior medical professionals and will be one of the magnets that will insure that Sonoma remains one of the finest places to live in the country.”

Those interested in contributing can contact Harmony Plenty, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, at 935-5070 or hplenty@svh.com.

“We’re delighted that Arline and Buddy stepped forward with their challenge grant at this time,” said Plenty. “Every dollar counts and we want people to know that a donation at any level can have real impact.”

While the new wing will provide more services to the Valley, it was an upgrade that was necessitated by state seismic safety requirements that affected roughly 50 percent of hospitals in California. Sonoma Valley Hospital was required to move its emergency operations from the central wing in order to meet the state’s stringent seismic regulations. The earthquake retrofit has been discussed in some form for decades, but it was only in the last 10 years that planning began in earnest. At times, it became a heated point of contention in the community when stakeholders argued over how to proceed. With launch of the new wing, hospital officials are focused on rebranding the facility in an effort to separate itself from the days when the hospital was a point of controversy.

“We need to stop responding to the past and replace the old story with a new one,” said Chief Executive Officer Kelly Mather during Thursday’s meeting of the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District board. Because 77 percent of Valley residents use Sonoma Valley Hospital’s emergency room, Mather said, “We’re going to focus on emergency services as our main message for the next couple of months. It’s the foundation of our hospital.”

The improved emergency room was designed to create a better experience both for patients and medical staff. With more rooms and more beds, patients won’t have to wait as long to be treated, and will have more privacy when speaking with a physician.

“It’s no longer an open room where everyone can hear what’s going on,” said Peter Hohorst, a board member and chair of the hospital’s construction committee.

Mather added, “Most patients are seen within 10 minutes.”

In addition to emergency services, hospital officials discussed plans to market the improved financial stability the new wing is expected to provide. Assistant Hospital Administrator Michelle Donaldson said the hospital hopes for a boost in surgical revenue of $1.5 million in the first fiscal year by increasing the number of orthopedic, bariatric, gynecological and urologic surgeries preformed in the new surgical center. Another $1 million in revenues is expected from expanding Home Care services to western Sonoma County and Marin County.

“It’s one of the fastest growing lines of service,” Donaldson said of home care.

The hospital has hired Bob Kenney as the new director of marketing and communication, who is already busy planning advertising campaigns, community outreach events and meetings with the medical community to inform stakeholders about the new Sonoma Valley Hospital.

“There’s so much good news – so many great things to talk about,” Kenney said.