[caption id="attachment_54267" align="alignright" width="383" caption="A rendering of the remodeled Sonoma Valley Hospital."][/caption]

SONOMA -- Staffing company founder Gary Nelson and his wife, Marcia, are making a $3 million gift toward an extensive upgrade of Sonoma Valley Hospital, including a new emergency department and other improvements, it was announced today.

The announcement of the largest gift in the hospital's history was made this afternoon at the groundbreaking for the $39 million project.

The gift comprises nearly half of what the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District, which oversees the hospital, is hoping to raise in capital funding for a portion of the upgrade. Most of the project will be financed through general obligation bonds totaling $32 million. The district said it would make up the difference of $7 million in fundraising.

[caption id="attachment_54272" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Gary Nelson"][/caption]

"The Nelsons have made a truly historic contribution to the hospital," said Kelly Mather, CEO of the hospital, in a statement. "Nothing could be more valuable to us right now than this demonstration of confidence in the hospital's future. We are overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement"

Mr. Nelson, who founded Sonoma-based Nelson Family of Companies, and his wife have been longtime supporters of the 83-bed hospital.

Mr. Nelson said access to the best emergency care is a critical element of the hospital project.

"The SVH emergency room is a critical and essential service to all of us in this community," Mr. Nelson said. "It serves every single resident and visitor in time of need, from the poorest to the most wealthy. When a health crises takes place in our valley, we need a state-of-the-art ER with the equipment and staff required to save the lives of our friends and families."

The upgrade calls for a two-story, 16,000 square-foot addition on the west wing of the current hospital. The first floor will house an 8,000-square-foot emergency department with nine beds, a trauma room, a triage room, isolation rooms and a consultation room. On the second floor, an 8,000 square-foot operating suite will be established that consists of three beds and telemedicine capabilities with enhanced IT equipment.

In addition to bringing the hospital up to state-mandated seismic standards, the upgrade will also improve energy efficiency and savings, according to the district. The hospital's two generators will be replaced with equipment that meets or exceeds standards set forth by the Bay Area Quality Management District and AB 32, which aim to lower greenhouse gases in the region and the state.

The Nelsons said they know firsthand the importance of having a capable emergency room close to home.

"Thirty years ago, our son Justin, who was just three months old at the time, was saved from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by the physicians in the SVH ER," Mr. Nelson said. "Marcia delivered him to the hospital barely alive, blue. Having the emergency room so close saved him. We have never forgotten how fortunate we were to have this hospital nearby."

Ms. Nelson said the $3 million gift is aimed at providing long-term availability to emergency services in Sonoma Valley, and that such services are at the core of health care concerns in any region.

"We hope our gift will help ensure that quality lifesaving ER services are available for years to come in Sonoma," she said. "One can argue about many health care issue in the U.S., but on a day-to-day basis, we need to serve the young, the old, and everyone in between. This is a worthy investment."