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Letters to the Editor, June 6 - 8


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Losing hospital would be a ‘dubious plan’

EDITOR: California law effectively precludes the possibility of “stand alone” emergency rooms, as that term is understood. Such facilities would be required to provide essentially the same services as full-fledged hospitals. As this would presumably cost about the same to operate as a hospital, there would likely be nothing to gain in cost savings.

Far better, it seems, to agree to a modest increase in our taxes to support the hospital we have. To do otherwise would be to force the hospital to close, and run the risk that we could manage to recreate a very similar facility, run at a similar cost. Such an ill-advised and dubious plan could fail, leaving us without an emergency medical facility in our community.

Michael R. Watson


Hospital needs ‘permanent solution,’ not parcel tax

EDITOR: Balderdash! The hospital does not “hinge” on the parcel tax. Yes, the hospital would have to take steps to live within a smaller budget, but “hinging”? I don’t think so.

If the tax were fairly applied to everyone, this parcel tax would not even be needed. It unfairly taxes only property owners.

This is simply another scare tactic. Similar to the “we have to build a new hospital” hue and cry we heard for years until some decided that we really could fix what we have.

Let’s stop this nonsense now. If more money is really needed to run the hospital, which I doubt, then find a permanent solution!

Jonathan H. Gates


Responder’s response

EDITOR: I have read that back-and-forth arguments about Measure E. I would like to present the viewpoint of the responders to an emergency call.

I have lived in the Sonoma Valley for more than 40 years, and I served 33 years as a professional firefighter in another jurisdiction. An emergency call generates a series of responses. First are the “first responders,” firefighters who are trained in “basic life support.” Next comes the paramedics who are trained in “advanced life support,” and they transport the patient to the emergency room. Sonoma Valley Hospital ER is not a trauma center, nor equipped for the most serious heart and stroke complications, but they can be an important part of life-saving care.

In the training I received, certain terms were presented. These were “stabilization in the field,” “the Golden Hour,” and “your last illness.” Your chances of surviving a serious medical emergency are grim if you cannot be “stabilized in the field.” Your “Golden Hour” is when advanced medical intervention is essential, or your “last illness” could take your life.

If Sonoma Valley Hospital is forced to close its doors, there will be a health crisis for those with severe medical emergencies. While the call volume wouldn’t be expected to go up, the ambulance delivery and return times to Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Napa and Novato could cause an ambulance shortage. Your “Golden Hour” could evaporate, and “your last illness” could be just that.

My wife and I have used our emergency room, and also have been hospitalized at SVH. We were both very impressed with the care provided.

On June 6, vote for your own health and safety. Vote “yes on Measure E!

Allan Leonard


Yes on E, but we need a better vision

EDITOR: Sonoma Valley Hospital, like all California hospitals, is losing revenue as reimbursement for hospital care steadily decreases. Currently over 50 percent of the Sonoma Valley Hospital revenue comes from Medicare. All hospitals are losing revenue or at best breaking even in providing care at current Medicare pay rates. At least 30 percent of Sonoma Valley Hospital’s care reimbursement, probably higher, comes from MediCal which in California reimburses at 50 percent of what Medicare pays. Just 20 percent of the hospital’s reimbursement comes from private insurance. This is a paltry amount and not enough to make up for the Medicare and MediCal reimbursement losses.

Sonoma Valley Hospital’s current payer mix results in an operational loss that must be made up by local revenue generators such as increased parcel taxes, fees and foundation monies. In addition to local revenue sources, state and federal funds assist in offsetting government insurance (Medicare, MediCal) losses. Unfortunately, the just-released federal budget calls for cuts to rural hospital grant programs. That could worsen the financial situation at Sonoma Valley Hospital. If the American Health Care Act becomes law there will be additional drastic cuts to the MediCal expansion program with losses of billions of dollars

Sonoma Valley Hospital is a district hospital, a dying breed in the current healthcare trend of megamergers and consolidation. The district hospital classification means a portion of the hospitals operating cost must come from community parcel taxes. But there is nothing that prohibits the community from voting on an additional “fee” in the form of a 0.5 percent increase in sales tax that would aid in keeping the hospital solvent using reciprocity by which everyone contributes to the hospital.

The board and especially the CEO need to account for why the hospital is running such a low bed census and why surgical utilization (the largest revenue generator for any hospital) is underperforming. They need to become more creative in how to solve the hospital under-utilization problem either by keeping care in Sonoma or by courting new care sources. One method to increase operating room utilization is to create a surgical tourism program by contracting with private cosmetic surgeons. Sonoma is already has a huge tourist destination with great restaurants and luxurious spas that could be merged into a program that would be beneficial for everyone including the hospital.

I believe Sonoma Valley Hospital has real potential and is a true value to the community, especially the ER that treats, admits or triages patients to higher acuity care hospitals if needed. If the hospital folds so will the ER. It’s a tough situation and our representatives in Sacramento have been irresponsible and reckless in the expansion of MediCal without long term, sustainable funding sources. So too has the CEO, with her $400K annual salary, and a lack of a plan to build out the hospital’s business.

I encourage voters to vote in favor of Measure E, but demand a solvent business plan from the hospital Board and CEO within one year of the special election.

Eileen Natuzzi, MD


Mom-and-pop ‘high-priced campaign consultant group’

EDITOR: Wait. What??

Last time I looked the ads, signs and flyers were being created in my house right here in Sonoma. Pro bono. By my husband. (Editor’s note: This is in response to a May 26 letter to the editor from Perri Paniagua titled “Am I the Only One Bothered By This?” in which the writer suggests the Measure E campaign had hired a “high-priced San Francisco campaign consultant group.”)

I don’t know what a “high priced San Francisco consultant group” is doing but we are doing the stuff you all see in the I-T, on lawns and flyers. And, yes, we are trying to “manipulate the electorate”! To get out and vote for our hospital!

Gretchen Gardner


Measure E campaign headed south

EDITOR: While I personally have no problem supporting Measure E, I am not going to ask hundreds of residents of this community who have no access to this hospital, some of whom have no access to no hospital at all. I also have no desire to sit back and support a hospital for the rich and famous of the East Side while the current government takes away health care coverage from so many of my less-fortunate neighbors.

To change the subject for the moment, I would like to point out to letter-to-the-editor writers like Ian Sidey (“Imagine There’s No Hospital, It’s Easy If You Try,” May 26) that Sonoma Valley does not do heart surgeries. No, they will treat you in the emergency room until you are well enough to be transferred to Marin General and you will be treated there. This is according to their own website. Your spouse can fight the traffic every day, just like I did, to visit my spouse, day after day. In fact, there is a whole list of what they do and what you will have to go to elsewhere for, on their website.

They can save the emergency room and let the hospital go. I only know one person that is insured to use this hospital. Everyone else has to go to Sutter or Kaiser Permanente. Like I said, I personally would support it, but I’m not putting that on my neighbors.

One last thing, it’s just funny, but the “Yes on E” ad in the May 26 issue of the Index-Tribune showed the traffic going south on 101 when it was supposed to headed toward Santa Rosa. Lol. If you had to go Marin General that is the way you would be going.

Joyce Edwards


Homeowners shouldn’t carry the burden

EDITOR: I hope the people of Sonoma read the letter from Brian Johnson in early May (“Hospital Salaries Too High,” May 16, which stating the positions and annual salaries of the SVH upper management). I’m outraged that the hospital has eight “Chief” positions and eight “Directors” all who take home a six-figure annual salary not including any perks or bonuses. Are you kidding me?

My “no” ballot was mailed long before reading his letter and also Jeannette Scharich’s very informative letter (“Support the Hospital, Not the Salaries,” May 30). I keep hearing that SVH is a hospital for

all the people. If that is true, then it should be paid for by ALL the people and not just the homeowners/landowners. It’s time to stop targeting the homeowner for every measure or bond requesting money. Perhaps the vote should be put to homeowners/landowners only, especially since the money comes out of their pocketbook. Vote “no” on Measure E!

Gale Herbert