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Letters to the Editor, July 27 - 30

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Hospital cuts make sense

EDITOR: Living in Sonoma we are blessed with the Sonoma Valley Hospital, a very small community focused hospital with an excellent safety and quality record — a place we can be proud of and feel confident taking our loved ones, and ourselves, in an emergency or for routine services. Across the country, and California, hospitals of this size are closed, closing, or considering closing because the finances simply no longer work. In Sonoma the community has been generous with financial support subsidizing the hospital’s operating costs through the parcel tax and the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation to ensure that we continue to have high quality emergency medical services.

Many people are not aware that the Emergency Room revenues do not pay the cost of ER services, not only in SVH, but in all hospitals. The ER is supported on the back of other hospital services that generate income — so it is critical to have all hospital services generating a positive cash flow. Regretfully SVH has a few services that are losing money and from all projections will continue to lose even more money going forward.

We have an excellent Skilled Nursing Facility (SKF) that has won numerous awards. The Home Health Care is excellent as well, so good in fact that Kaiser contracted with SVH to provide those services to Kaiser patients in Sonoma Valley. And the Obstetrics (OB) unit is universally praised by those few who use the services. Despite the high quality of these programs and their excellent staff, SVH can no longer afford to subsidize them financially.

For the SNF and Home Health Care there are other excellent options available right here in Sonoma Valley to take the patient load. Regretfully the same cannot be said for OB. I voted to keep OB open in 2014 when I was on the Sonoma Valley Health Care District Board of Directors (the oversight body for SVH). I believed then, and still today, that it says something sad about a community when babies are no longer born there. And having heard the large number of particular supporters from the community in 2014 I know closing OB is a very emotionally charged subject. But SVH births have fallen from about 12 per month in 2014 to about 8 in 2018. In 2014 all the birth projections predicted continuing decreases and that continues to be true in 2018. SVH has one of the lowest birth rates among hospital OB units across the country. Hospitals are closing their OB units when they are delivering 40 per month because they are not financially viable, and for safety concerns.

And… more important than money, is the safety of mothers and babies. With births so infrequent we are testing the fates. Safety in health care, like many things, requires well trained and highly skilled doctors and staff, which SVH is blessed to have. It is also well recognized in health care that frequent repetition builds and sharpens skills, knowledge and safety, particular for handling unexpected and life threatening events. As one doctor told me recently, anyone can deliver a baby, regular people have been doing it for thousands of years; it is in those unusual critical and life threatening situations when you need a highly skilled and experienced team that deals with deliveries all day, every day, and therefore has more frequent experience with life or death situations.

The Hospital’s Board of Directors is faced with very hard decisions, but most important for the Board is to ensure SVH does not become one more closed hospital statistic. Closing these three services — and, yes, that includes OB — is important to the financial survival of SVH and the high quality emergency services it provides to all of us right here in Sonoma Valley. I urge the community to support the Board as it makes these hard choices for the long term good of the Valley’s health care delivery system.

Kevin Carruth

Former board member Sonoma Valley Health Care District

Don’t like the rules, write your own

EDITOR: Greed and ego unbound seems to be the order of the day here in the time of Trump. Sonoma’s mini version of that is Bill Jasper’s demand that the City Council bend to his wishes to change the City’s zoning and building code to suit his needs. These “needs” include: a 20,000 square foot house, a 10,000 square foot house and a 7,000 square foot (little jobby) on the three properties he bought on Schocken Hill, all of which are limited to 5,000 square feet by Sonoma’s Hillside Ordinance.

When the City Council turned down Jasper’s proposal after a number of contentious hearings, he and his lawyers threatened to sue the city and that’s precisely what he’s done. Don’t like the rules, write your own.

Here’s the gist of Jasper’s lawsuit. His crack legal team has come up with the brilliant plan to base their suit against the City on the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). Of course the HAA was enacted to address the state’s recognized housing crisis and was aimed in particular to increase affordable housing for moderate and low-income households. How many of those folks do you think will qualify for a 20,000 square foot house on Sonoma’s backdrop hillside?

Whatever the outcome of Jasper’s lawsuit it’ll be great fun to watch his lawyers try to work the language of the HAA to convince a judge he’s building three houses totaling 37,000 square feet for Sonoma’s workforce.

You can’t feed the hungry ghost of avarice. A bigger house, a newer car, a younger mate… it’s never enough. Jasper wants the hilltop, and he wants you looking up in admiration for what he’s got while he’s looking down on you from his privileged perch.

Will Shonbrun

Boyes Springs