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Sonoma Valley Hospital

October Board Letter

October 16, 2023

Leer en español

October 10, 2023

Dear Community Members,

On October 5, the Board held its first meeting of the fall. I hope you are enjoying the beginnings of the season as much as I am, with the evening air turning crisp.

Steve Akre, Fire Chief of the Sonoma Valley Fire District, a key partner with the hospital, gave a very interesting presentation to the Board. He began by updating us on the mild current fire season, for which we should be “thankful but vigilant.” He stated that there has been considerable improvement throughout the County in wildfire readiness since 2017.

He wanted to make us aware of a sales tax measure on the March 2024 ballot. This is a county-wide measure, and revenues from this tax would go to six program categories, including staffing and wildfire prevention. Locally, funds would be used to increase our fleet of ambulances from two to three, and to refurbish two of our stations. As president of the Sonoma County Fire Chiefs Association (there are 19 members), Chief Akre is actively promoting this measure. More information can be found at

We engaged in some conversation with Chief Akre about ambulances. Nearly 70% of ambulance cases are directed to Sonoma Valley Hospital, except when specific medical conditions or protocols necessitate otherwise, or when dealing with non-emergent Kaiser patients. This alignment underscores our common commitment to delivering swift and attentive care, benefiting patients, our community, and the hospital alike.

Dawn Castelli, Manager, SVH Community Outreach and Marketing, presented our marketing and communications plan, emphasizing the importance of aligning the year’s marketing and outreach initiatives with our strategic plan. We strive to present ourselves as leaders and effectively share our community hospital’s story with all of you. Ms. Castelli’s annual report to the Board was well received.

CEO John Hennelly reported that construction begins this week for the new 3T MRI. It will be operational in its temporary location in our hospital’s North parking lot starting in January 2024. This enhancement greatly improves our diagnostic capabilities. He also reported that the assessment of our seismic readiness has begun. This is to maintain compliance with the state’s timeline regarding 2030 standards.

Dr. Sujatha Sankaran, our Chief Medical Officer, reported on how the upcoming installation and operation of the new 3T MRI will dramatically reduce schedule times, ensuring that there will be essentially no wait time to schedule an appointment. This is a big step toward our goal of performing, here at Sonoma Valley Hospital, labs, imaging, and scans necessary for procedures and care scheduled at UCSF. This is really a win-win-win situation, as it will benefit Valley patients, our hospital, and UCSF. Part of the challenge will be to increase referrals from UCSF for these evaluations.

Dr Sankaran announced a start date for the world-renowned Urologist, Dr. Peter Carroll, who will be available for virtual consultations starting October 27th, with plans to transition to in-person appointments once the clinic reaches capacity.

Our team remains steadfast in our commitment to health equity, ensuring that healthcare is accessible, affordable, and culturally sensitive to all members of our community. Collaborating with La Luz and the Community Health Center, we are conducting Diabetes Health Fairs, which provide screenings, and pharmacist consultations designed to reach every segment of our diverse population in Sonoma. Dr. Sankaran also announced upcoming diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for SVH leadership, as we continue to strive for equitable access to health care.

CFO Ben Armfield reported positive financial performance in August, with increased outpatient numbers and notable highs in physical therapy and outpatient surgeries. We have had a strong start to the fiscal year, and we are pleased with our performance thus far.

Together, we will continue to provide exceptional care and build a healthier future for our community.

Join us Thursday, November 2, 2023, for our next Board meeting. Check out the website for details.


Judith Bjorndal, M.D.
Board Chair, Sonoma Valley Hospital

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