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Sonoma West Medical Center CEO resigns

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Sonoma West Medical Center CEO Ray Hino has resigned from the Sebastopol hospital, claiming he can no longer sustain the energy and long hours required of him for the past 20 months.

In a June 26 letter to his colleagues, Hino said he’s often worked 12- to 13-hour days and 6- to 7-day weeks, including every weekend for 85 straight weeks.

“When I came to SWMC, I had hopes of spending more time with my family in Northern California,” he wrote. “In fact, I have spent less time by working nearly every weekend.”

The hospital opened in late October at the site of the former Palm Drive Hospital, which was shuttered a year and a half earlier following declines in patients and insurance reimbursements. The new medical center has struggled to collect payments for medical services and become financially sustainable.

Sonoma West’s board of directors is proposing to fill the CEO position internally. Barbara Borbeck, who has served for less than a month as both the chief operating officer and chief nursing officer, is slated to take Hino’s place. Her salary is still being negotiated; Hino was paid $250,000 annually.

The shift in management must be approved by the board of directors of the Palm Drive Health Care District. Under the management services agreement between the nonprofit medical center and the district, such terminations and hirings must be approved by the health care district leadership.

At a meeting Monday night, two members of the Palm Drive board requested more time to review the change in management. The board is expected to reconvene later this week to vote on the matter.

The move comes as the medical center continues to search for a third-party health care provider to subcontract certain business and management tasks, particularly billing and accounts receivable. Borbeck said Monday she is part of a team at the medical center negotiating with two potential partners.

Hospital officials said one is Valley Emergency Physicians, a Walnut Creek doctors’ group. Officials said they could not reveal the identity of the other group, per the negotiating agreement.

“We’re looking at those partners to provide both intellectual and financial capital,” said Dan Smith, president of Sonoma West’s board of directors.

One of the matters to be determined is whether Sonoma West will continue to have its own CEO. Borbeck has been negotiating with Valley about the possibility of being hired by the subcontractor to work as its CEO at the hospital. She is scheduled to discuss that and other subcontract issues this week, hospital officials said.

Borbeck said her continued employment is not a deal-breaker in negotiations.

“That’s not how I roll,” Borbeck said. “I look for what’s in the best interest of an organization.”

Prior to coming to Sonoma West Medical Center in early June, Borbeck worked as assistant chief nursing officer at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, Calif. She has also worked as director of inpatient and ambulatory departments at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in the East Bay and as nurse manager at three health care facilities in Arizona.

Borbeck said one of the main longterm goals for the medical center will be efforts to recruit, train and retain “human capital,” a concept that views a workforce in terms of its value or cost to an organization.

As part of that focus, Borbeck said the medical center would be seeking “Magnet” recognition under the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association whose goal is to promote excellence in nursing.

“What we put together here is going to draw people to our organization,” said Borbeck, referring to the recruitment of highly qualified nurses and physician partners.

Smith said Monday he has committed another $3 million of his own funds to help the hospital get to the point where it is breaking even, hopefully by the end of the year. That brings Smith’s total contribution over the years to about $13 or $14 million, he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espino za@pressdemocrat.com.

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