SONOMA — Sonoma Valley Health Care District named former hospital administrator and “healing model” advocate Kelly Mather as president and chief executive officer of Sonoma Valley Hospital, replacing outgoing Carl Gerlach as of July 19.
Ms. Mather, 43, comes to the 83-bed hospital as the district board last week unanimously approved a five-year plan for $83 million in capital improvements.
“We need $64 million for high-priority stuff,” said Mr. Gerlach in a statement just after the June 29 meeting.
Known sources of funding, including improved cash flow from a newly revised business plan, presently are estimated to supply $51 million to $58 million, depending on whether a proposed cost-sharing affiliation with Marin General Hospital is pursued.
Ms. Mather said she’s been in tough operational situations before. As a 28-year-old chief executive at San Leandro Hospital in 1996, she led the hospital for five years as buyers were sought for the struggling hospital. The hospital secured a key accreditation two years later and was sold to Eden Medical Center just after she left in 2001 to take the helm of a more stable hospital, Sutter Health System’s Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport.
That hospital suffered from a similar problem as Sonoma Valley Hospital’s, with many residents going outside the area for medical care, she said. During her time there, she developed what she calls the “healing model for hospitals.”
Four levels of care in that model are traditional hospital care, staff wellness, health-awareness education and community outreach.
Ms. Mather describes her administrative style as fast-starting. Two years later, Lakeside became a preferred hospital in Lake County.
“I’m a growth CEO,” she said. “And in a time when many hospitals in California are losing money, to be coming to a hospital that is viable is really a plus.”
Sonoma Valley Hospital posted an $850,000 loss in calendar 2009, but the fiscal 2011 budget is projected have “better performance than any year I’ve looked at in our history,” said Chief Financial Officer Tim Noakes.
In 2008 she left the hospital to start Harmony Healing House, a hospital consultancy based on the model, and wrote six books. Mendocino District Hospital recently completed an 18-month pilot use of the model.
“I was not hired to take that to Sonoma Valley, but the board is intrigued about the model,” she said. “I was hired as an administrator, and if they choose to use the model it could improve community trust and the hospital’s reputation.”
Ms. Mather is married with three children ages 10, 12 and 15. The family is planning to move from Lake County to Sonoma Valley.
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