Hospital turns over nursing unit, also raises millions for new outpatient center

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Sonoma Valley Hospital has officially transitioned its skilled nursing facility to a new operator.

The Ensign Group took over the unit on July 1 and renamed it Valley of the Moon Post Acute, according to Kelly Mather, the hospital’s CEO. The deal had been in the works for several months.

The skilled nursing facility remains on the hospital’s grounds, and the majority of the unit’s staff has stayed with Ensign, Mather said. Ensign also has submitted an application for a license to extend the facility’s services to treat subacute patients, Mather said, adding that the licensing process can take up to a year to be approved.

“We made many changes to the skilled nursing facility in fiscal year 2019, and the operational losses were less than expected for the year,” Mather said. “But outsourcing the facility to Ensign was clearly the best decision to eliminate the losses and was the right one for the hospital’s continued stability.”

Mather told the Business Journal in October that she projected an $880,000 operational loss for the skilled nursing facility in fiscal year 2019. She didn’t disclose final details as to how the hospital was able to reduce that figure, or by how much. The hospital’s board approved a task force last summer to evaluate the facility’s future.

In May, the hospital announced it was close to finalizing a proposal where Ensign would assume operational management of the nursing unit. Ensign is a national operator of skilled nursing and rehabilitative care services. The company operates 254 health care facilities, including 197 skilled nursing facilities, in 16 states.

Joshua Rymer, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, said in May that Ensign has the expertise and resources to make the skilled nursing facility “financially viable in ways that our own staff, despite their strong efforts, could not.”

Mather on Tuesday also provided an update on the hospital’s capital campaign, announced in November, to fund an outpatient diagnostic center, which will include upgrading the imaging department with new CT and MRI equipment and suites.

To date, the capital campaign has secured $17.5 million toward a goal of $21 million, Mather said. The Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation is leading the fundraising efforts.

“We have had many donors who have contributed to the capital campaign, with several pledging over $1 million,” Mather said.

The outpatient diagnostic center is set to break ground in December and be completed by the end of 2020, she said.

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