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Letters to the Editor, May 16 - 18


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Hospital salaries too high

EDITOR: I recently sent a public records request to Sonoma Valley Hospital asking for upper-management compensation. The positions and annual salaries are as follows:

Chief Executive Officer: $402,084 (includes car allowance and bonus)

Chief Financial Officer: $212,193

Chief Revenue Officer: $212,160 (she lives 3,000 miles from Sonoma and is flown in for one week per month)

Chief Nursing Officer: $219,273

Chief Ancillary Officer: $169,748

Chief Quality Officer: $166,816

Chief Information Officer: $157,601

Chief Medical Officer: $158,308

Director ED/ICU: $160,680

Director of Facilities: $137,529

Director of Healing at Home: $168,979

Director of Human Resources: $143,852

Director of Information Systems: $135,075

Director of Materials Management: $114,285

Director, Patient Financial Services: $131,144

Director of SNF: $154,480

This is for a hospital with an average daily census of 35 to 40 patients.

The CEO has borrowed money to pay for day-to-day operating expenses and owes more than $8 million on a line of credit.

I don’t want my tax money to be wasted by a CEO who spends frivolously and is fiscally irresponsible. If the Board of Directors continues to support Kelly Mather, I will vote “no” on Measure E.

Brian Johnson

Boyes Hot Springs

Hospital salaries competitive

EDITOR: As we travel around our Valley talking to people about Measure E — which just about everyone is supporting — a question that occasionally comes up is the issue of salaries for Sonoma Valley Hospital administrators. It’s a fair question, so let us provide some context and correct the misinformation.

The Board uses salary and bonus data from various sources for hospitals our size. We are around the midpoint in our administrative salaries. We have very competent and sought-after leaders, and they are constantly getting feelers and offers from other hospitals.

As an example of our Hospital’s fiscal prudence, let’s compare our Hospital with Healdsburg District Hospital, a similar but smaller hospital. The CEO at Sonoma Valley Hospital makes $370,455 a year. That may seem like a lot, and it is, but she also serves as the COO, saving our Hospital tens of thousands of dollars per year.

In Healdsburg’s hospital there is both a CEO and a COO (something common in hospitals of every size around the country). Together their combined salaries are $527,569. That’s more than $155,000 than we pay our leaders!

We also recently consolidated two executive level positions resulting in a savings of $157,000 for SVH. The Board of Directors is constantly looking for ways to make our hospital better managed and more efficient.

We still need the parcel tax to be on sound footing, as do most hospital districts in California. The increase to the long existing parcel tax is $1 a week. The bottom line: If Measure E fails to pass, the hospital will have a major shortfall, and we will be at risk of closure. We have a state-of-the-art hospital and ER serving all comers regardless of ability to pay. Let’s be sure we keep it. Our community deserves no less.

Jane Hirsch, Peter Hohorst

Sonoma Valley Healthcare District board of directors

Second and last chance on hospital

EDITOR: Life doesn’t always offer us second chances, so when they occur we should cherish and honor them.

The emergency room at Sonoma Valley Hospital is in the daily business of offering second chances to those in our community who are struck with life-threatening circumstances, whether a heart attack or stroke, or an accident in our homes or on our highways. It is rare for a community our size to enjoy the luxury of a full-service hospital, ER and the various medical support services that make them possible. We are also fortunate for the professional management and staff who keep the whole thing running and for the five community volunteers who represent us as board members to ensure proper governance.

We as voters in the hospital district have also been offered a second chance. After three easy victories in parcel tax elections starting in 2002, we suffered a bout of complacency and overconfidence in March and came up 150 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to pass another five-year renewal. Had this result been allowed to stand, it would surely have led to the closure of Sonoma Valley Hospital. Fortunately, our district board did not throw in the towel and the parcel tax is back before us in the form of Measure E.

Don’t pass up this second chance to save our hospital and all-important emergency room. Vote yes on Measure E and be sure to cast your ballot in time for it to be counted on June 6. It is without a doubt our last chance.

Steve Page


Why I can’t support Measure E

EDITOR: With all due respect for the many people I know associated with Sonoma Valley Hospital and for I-T editorial opinion, I cannot support Measure E. I offer medical and, secondarily, economic reasons. No testimonials or anecdotes. Only facts and a proposal:

I love Sonoma and have lived here 40 years. I practiced medicine for over 30 years and for 10 of those years had an office in Sonoma where I took care of patients at Sonoma Valley Hospital and in the ER. Otherwise, I practiced neurology in San Francisco and during that time served many years on the Board of Trustees of St. Francis Memorial Hospital. I also spent 10 years serving as the physician for the San Francisco Police Department. Those are my credentials.

Sonoma is a microcosm of what is happening with medical care all over the United States, except that here we have this seemingly bottomless pit of money called a parcel tax which lets the folly continue. Hospitals, large and small, district and nondistrict, are rapidly closing all over the country because medical care is largely moving from inpatient (hospital) care to outpatient (clinic) care. This change is good and will continue as the government pays progressively less for inpatient care. There is no medical reason in the 21st century to have a hospital and ER every few miles down the road. Over 90 percent of all medical issues can be promptly and properly treated by local doctors (we have them) in their offices or clinics or by community health centers (we have one) or in 24-hour urgent-care centers and “surgi-centers” (we could have them). What your readers want (see letters to the editor, etc.) is convenience at reasonable cost and when, on maybe that once-in-a-lifetime occasion, they need major surgery or have a true medical emergency, they want a large hospital that is equipped and staffed to treat them properly. Ideally, one would live within an hour of such care with ambulance or EMS services. We have access to at least three such hospitals – in far less time. The Sonoma Valley Healthcare District was formed in 1946 to provide healthcare services. A hospital and ER were not mandated. Medicine and medical care have changed a lot since 1946. Let’s close the hospital and ER and convert that nice building to the Sonoma Medical Center with an UrgentCare and SurgiCenter. The skilled nursing facility, home health care, Women’s Health Center, etc. would continue as they are (or better) today. And they would be much less costly.

Converting those buildings to a medical center rather than a hospital and ER will be relatively inexpensive and will save many millions of dollars in the near and distant future. The expenditures for the hospital (which has a daily census of less than 10 acute care patients) are astronomical. Payroll alone is astronomical with 16 chiefs and directors getting $2.8 million per year in salaries.

From the New York Times on May 5: “First, health care in the United States costs much more than in other developed countries, and on average the outcomes are worse.” It all begins at home.

Clayton Parson, M.D.

Sonoma Valley

Parcel tax is essential

EDITOR: I am a physician who has worked at Sonoma Valley Hospital for 10 years in the past. During my career I have worked at many other hospitals. In my opinion the level of care that our hospital provides is as good or better than any other hospital that I have worked in.

I also have been a patient in our hospital and I have used the lab an outpatient facility and the ER. I also have loved ones that have been cared for here. The skilled nursing facility is a gem that is not found in any other local hospital.

The parcel tax is essential to the continuing operation of our hospital. I feel strongly that the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth for their tax dollars.

Please vote yes for Measure E to maintain the continuing existence of our hospital.

Michael Lipson, M.D.