The Sun Interview: Hospital CEO Kelly Mather

The Sun’s Bonnie Durrance checks in Kelly Mather as she begins her third year  as president and CEO of Sonoma Valley Hospital.

Q. What surprised you most, in this job?

A. The way our community treats the hospital as if they are owners was a new experience for me. I’ve run two other hospitals and this was not the case. I’ve learned to appreciate that the community is rooting for our success and many have an opinion because they understand that the hospital a key component in the health of our community.  I’ve tried to really listen to the community because of their interest.

Q. How’s the hospital doing?

A. The year 2013 was our best year ever from the standpoint of revenue over expenses, quality outcomes, patient and staff satisfaction. We still struggle a bit due to low reimbursement and constant reductions in governmental payments. The philanthropic support in 2012-2013 was beyond expectation and very much appreciated. Having so many investors in our future has taken us to the next level and our new E.R. and Surgery wing will help us further stabilize and improve our community perception.

Q. That sounds like the community is starting to work together.

A. Absolutely. What I love about Sonoma is the way we collaborate and that our community understands the importance of supporting precious local resources such as healthcare.

Q. What else about the hospital feels good to you?

A. I’ve been working on a Healing Hospital model since 1996, and the positive changes that we’ve made at Sonoma Valley Hospital demonstrate the power of hospitals focusing on creating a healthier community. Our staff is encouraged to be health role models and our patients are encouraged to take the lead with a team approach to healing.  Our hospital is responsible for helping community members maintain their health through screenings for awareness and life improvement services. I’m a bit obsessed with this work and have writtenseven books thus far to support the model to improve health.

Q. How do you make that work financially?

A. We have partnerships with several health plans that have always operated with the health of their enrollees in mind. We have rapidly moved into a place where it is clear that it is in the best interests of the physicians, the hospitals and the health plan to help patients stay healthy through early access and lower costing healthcare resources.  When a patient is admittednow, we are responsible to see that they are not re-admitted to the hospital for at least 30 days or we don’t get paid.  This incentivizes us to treat the whole person – mind, body and spirit and ensure they have their basic needs met at home.

Q. How do you feel Sonoma Valley Hospital rates, in your experience?

A. After three years of running of this hospital I feel it’s the best hospital I’ve ever had the pleasure of leading. I truly think our hospital is positioned to be a leader in the hospital industry and show other community hospitals how to stay alive and healthy.

Q. What’s the most joyful thing you’ve found about living in Sonoma?

A. I love living three blocks from the Plaza and work. I walk most everywhere and am a frequent visitor at almost all of our local restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to run and I love hiking Overlook Trail. I have also met so many wonderful leaders who I now call mentors and seek their advice regularly.  This has made it easier to live apart from my family during the week.

Q. Where do you get your energy?

A. I am on a mission to improve health through hospitals, and have been for many years, and that continually inspires me. There is so much to do that I’ve developed a system focus my day on answering one question, “How may I serve?” With my practice of Yoga, meditation and exercise and reading inspiring books from inspiring leaders, I get even more motivated to make a difference. I usually end the day with a humbling review of my service with the help of my three kids and my wonderful husband.  And that all leads to my “energetic” personality, I guess.

Q.  What would you especially like people to know about the hospital?

A. I would like people to know that they have a great hospital that provides outstanding, compassionate care in a healing atmosphere.  We have cleaned up the physical plant (thanks to the General Obligation Bond) and they can take pride in their hospital.  Many physicians who work at Sonoma also work at Marin General, which is a state of the art tertiary care hospital.  We provide 90 percent of the care most people need with comparable technology and specialists through telemedicine.  We know some people have had poor experiences in the past and did not feel heard.  But, we are committed to providing excellent care to our community and I find that majority of the people treated in the past few years are very happy. If they aren’t happy, we fix it. There is just no good reason to keep leaving home for healthcare.


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