Open at Last

It’s not easy to open a hospital. In fact, it’s the most difficult thing many of us have ever done. But the rewards are clear. We are here to heal sick or hurting people. We are here to save lives.

If you were on staff at Sonoma West Medical Center during the rebuilding, you would have seen nurses huddled over computers, pharmacists working through lists of formularies, IT specialists mapping software protocols and everyone testing, testing, testing our levels of patient safety late into the night. For days, weeks, months we tirelessly refined, revised and reviewed our policies and procedures.

Throughout this process, Raymond Hino, our CEO, persisted in his support of the team and in his optimism that we would—soon—prevail. Every night we would sit down in his office and review our progress. Every morning we would convene to review the plan for the day. Dan Smith, hospital philanthropist and chair of the Sonoma West Medical Center board, could be seen hunched over his desk until midnight working on solving the problems that eluded others. Smith and his wife, Joan Marler, ever present, asked us the hard questions and helped us find the solutions. The two of them were confident about why they chose this path. Most of the time.

“I think I should have a pretty easy time in my next life,” Dan joked to me the other evening, “because I sure didn’t take the easy road in this one.”

So at 4pm on Oct. 29, when Ray Hino announced the hospital could open, we sent up a cheer that echoed through the hallways and bounced off the walls. The surge of emotion could be felt as the team gathered in the gardens to celebrate together. Some of us expressed a feeling of shock, as though we had just been found by a rescue team after being lost in the wilderness.

As of Nov. 2, we have seen 52 adults and children, and admitted five. We are busy doing what we came here to do. As one of our patients was being wheeled from the ambulance, he called out for Dan Smith, who came to his side. Reaching for Dan’s hand, he said, “Dan Smith, you’ve done a great thing. You’ve opened our hospital, and I personally want to thank you.”

Jane Rogan is director of communications for Sonoma West Medical Center.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].