The board received a report at the December meeting from a group of citizens who took the time, on their own initiative, to independently evaluate the fiscal and operational health of the hospital and to investigate concerns expressed by some in the community about the hospital’s future and management.
We are grateful to Steve Pease, Gary Nelson and Bob Edwards for their considerable efforts over the past four months to sort through the facts and share their conclusions with the community, the board, and the hospital.
All three bring experience as former members of the Sonoma Valley Health Care Coalition, a volunteer group that came together in 2007 to bring clarity to the debate over the hospital’s need for a parcel tax. In addition, Gary Nelson served on the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District board and the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation board during the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
In preparing the report, the group spent four months interviewing a range of people – hospital critics and supporters, local physicians, current and former hospital employees, board members and staff, as well as knowledgeable community “influencers.” They made many data requests from the hospital’s finance and human resources staff. They reviewed the last 10 years of the hospital’s financial statements, a large variety of other financial information that was requested, and the last 10 years of the hospital’s independent financial audits.
Their report is, I believe, a fair and accurate assessment of the hospital’s current situation, financially and operationally, and one that acknowledges both the achievements of the past years, especially the financial gains the hospital has made recently, as well as the challenges the hospital still faces, including the continuing need for a parcel tax.
These three gentlemen approached this significant effort with open and curious minds. They asked a lot of questions and spoke to a large number of people in the community. They were not paid nor were they recruited to do this work, they did it because they cared and saw a parallel to an earlier time in the history of the hospital when the community was divided.
They made many observations, two of which I find particularly important: They came away convinced that our community needs an Emergency Department simply because, without it, lives would be unnecessarily lost and injuries would be unnecessarily made worse. Second, they could see that because the government so dramatically underpays our hospital for the services we provide to around 75 percent of our patients with Medicare and Medi-Cal coverage, it is inconceivable that the hospital would be able to survive without the continuing support from a parcel tax for the foreseeable future.
There are many, many other interesting observations and suggestions in the draft report. We have placed a copy on the SVH website of both the full report and the presentation made at the board meeting that includes report highlights. We encourage everyone in our community to read them. You can find them here. The group has also posted the report on their own website, svhobservations.org.
CEO compensation was also addressed at the December meeting. Each year the CEO and the board agree on a set of goals for the coming fiscal year which the board must approve. These goals, both financial and operational, drive CEO performance incentive compensation to be paid after the end of that fiscal year.
At this meeting the board completed Kelly Mather’s annual review for fiscal year 2019 and, because she met or exceeded many of the goals set for the past fiscal year, approved a bonus and a salary increase for the coming year (effective January 1st 2020). Kelly did not receive a salary increase in the last fiscal year. Each year the board looks at salaries for CEO’s at comparably-sized hospitals and continues to find that Kelly’s compensation is at the mid-level, relative to her peers.
Following the meeting, Kelly asked that her salary increase be used toward increases for deserving hospital leaders and staff members, and that she would accept only the standard two percent cost of living increase. This is a generous decision by Kelly and the board will comply with her wishes.
The board is united in its belief that our hospital has an excellent CEO in Kelly Mather. She performs her responsibilities at a high level. Making decisions at the nexus of balancing saving lives with making difficult business decisions is challenging, and Kelly has shown she handles the responsibilities especially well. We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber at our hospital, serving our community.
A Personal Note
This will be my last report as board chair. After two years, I will be handing the gavel to a new chair who will be elected by the board at the beginning of the January meeting. I want to express my appreciation to the many who have offered words of support and encouragement during my time as chair. It’s been my pleasure to serve in this role and I look forward to continuing as a board member.
Next Board Meeting
Our next regular District Board meeting will be held on Thursday, January 9, at 6 pm in the Community Meeting Room, 177 1st St. West in Sonoma. The public is welcome to attend and public comment is always encouraged.
Chair of the SVHCD Board of Directors