Reflections on board service

Dr. David Chambers

Sonoma Valley can be proud of its hospital. The uncertainty of previous years is behind us. We have built new relationships with our physician community and have begun an alliance with Marin General Hospital. We will be breaking ground soon on a much needed new ER and operating rooms. Our Skilled Nursing Facility has had a complete makeover. We have started a Quality Committee and the board is engaged in a comprehensive review of its governance structure. President and CEO Kelly Mather is building a team with the skills and enthusiasm to provide the services needed in the valley. This is not the same hospital we had two years ago.
There is something special that sets SVH apart from the larger, commercial systems. The hospital belongs to the community. It is a district hospital, established by state law and owned by the citizens who live in the area from the southeastern border of the county to just above Glen Ellen. The five board members are publicly elected officials who hold the assets and oversee the hospital operations as a public trust. That involves a lot of work to make sure the budget is sound, the doctors who are granted admitting privileges meet the standards of their peers, the best protocols for quality are in place, accreditations are passed, acquisition and sale of assets (including land) are wise, contractual arrangements benefit the district, and we continue to position ourselves well in the complex and shifting world of healthcare reform.

From time to time there will be differences of opinion about how much of the public’s business should be done in public.

Fortunately, we have a talented professional staff. We also rely heavily on the community to make our committees effective. There are outstanding volunteers on the Finance Committee, Quality Committee, Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, and Audit Committee. The Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation shines through its legacy of fundraising and “friendraising.” For sheer dedication, the Sonoma Valley Hospital Auxiliary has no peer. They are there every day helping because they want to be. Three volunteers recently retired who shared a total among them of 24,000 hours of service.

As the board does its public work, it has been fortunate to have the help of the true public. There are individuals who regularly attend board and committee meetings. They are informed and are always given an opportunity to speak. California law requires that the public have access to all information that the board receives (except for contracts and disciplinary matters). This information can be obtained by signing up for regular e-mail. See the well-designed Web page for contact information.

Sonoma Valley Hospital is a community resource in the fullest sense of that tradition. The more public involvement, the stronger it will become.
There will be a call for someone to fill the now vacant seat on the SVHD board. There are many in the Valley who are more than qualified to step up. But there are numerous other opportunities to serve, at various levels of skill and time commitment.

I will miss the breakfasts where I got to listen to enthusiastic suggestions, our earnest conversations about what we can do better, and the celebrations of our accomplishments. What I will miss most are the people. 

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