St. Joseph Health named a new executive Tuesday to oversee its two hospitals and other operations in Sonoma County.

Todd Salnas, executive vice president and chief operating officer, has been promoted to the role of president of St. Joseph Health Sonoma County, the second-largest private employer in the county.

He leads a system that employs nearly 2,300 workers and operates Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals. St. Joseph's net revenues in the county amounted to $423 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Salnas, 39, took over his new role Monday. He succeeds Kevin Klockenga, who last summer was named CEO of St. Joseph's Northern California region, overseeing its five hospitals and related services in Sonoma, Napa and Humboldt counties.

Klockenga, who filled both the county and regional executive roles for the past year, will now focus on his regional responsibilities. He said Salnas has considerable knowledge of health care operations and has worked well with St. Joseph staff.

"He's shown his ability to lead the organization strategically as well," Klockenga said.

Both men said a key part of their work today involves preparing St. Joseph for the coming federal health care law. The law will push health providers to help patients "get better faster," to avoid relapses and "to prevent them from being ill in the first place," Salnas said.

Memorial Hospital, for example, looked for ways to improve care for cardiac patients both in the hospital and after leaving the facility, Salnas said. As a result of the project, Memorial was recently named the third-best hospital in the U.S. for heart attack treatment.

Salnas came to St. Joseph Health three years ago after a nationwide search. He previously served as chief operating officer at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier.

This time, no external search was undertaken to select a new president for the county's operations, Klockenga said. It was a sign of confidence in Salnas by the board members at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals, he said.

The nonprofit health care system, based in Orange County, is part of a ministry operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.