WatchSonoma Watch

Meet the Candidates: Health care districts

Voters who live within two health care districts in Sonoma County will select members of their Board of Directors in the Nov. 2 election.

In west Sonoma County, six candidates are running for two three seats on the Palm Drive Health Care District Board of Directors, which oversees Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol.

In the Sonoma Valley, three candidates are running for two seats on the Sonoma Valley Health Care District Board of Directors, which oversees Sonoma Valley Hospital in Sonoma.

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. The symbol (I) marks an incumbent.

This page is a place where candidates can post statements and voters can discuss the issues in each district.

Palm Drive Health Care District (3 seats)

Sonoma Valley Health Care District (2 seats)

9 Responses to “Meet the Candidates: Health care districts”


    Palm Drive has been Western Sonoma County’s hospital since the1940’s. As medical staff, we have seen good times and we have seen very bad times. One very difficult time was November l998 when Columbia told us they were closing the Hospital in two weeks. The West County was passionate about their Hospital and they saved us. We want to thank the Community and tell you that we think we have entered good times again.

    One reason for our optimism is that, with the help of the Health Tech management firm, we are out of bankruptcy and we now have a little bit of money to improve the Hospital. We are now looking beyond the survival of the Hospital and building a strategic plan for the future that promotes healthy living throughout the West County.

    With the help of Health Tech, we have also hired a dynamic new CEO to lead an energized staff in the development of Palm Drive as the center of health promotion in our community. We want to thank the Palm Drive District Board for the incredible amount of uncompensated time, energy and passion that they have given to get us to this point.


    Richard E Powers MD 6800 Palm Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 823-5341
    Nancy A Davidson MD
    James Shubin, MD
    Stephen Crane MD
    David Fichman, MD
    Peter S. Sybert, MD
    Michael Holmes, MD
    Jason Cunningham DO
    Bruce R. Bragonier MD
    Terri Turner DO
    Steve Mertens, MD

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  2. Jim Horn says:

    Recently a local newspaper asked if the upcoming Palm Drive District board election is a referendum on Brim Healthcare, the Tennessee corporation hired last year to manage the hospital (and since renamed as Health Tech Management).

    Two of the challengers in this election, funded primarily by the current board treasurer, threaten to terminate Brim’s contract unless it “performs on the promises it made.” They accuse Brim of breaking several promises (that don’t actually appear in the contract) and now of various financial improprieties. They’ve even sued Palm Drive to force disclosure of an allegedly unflattering financial report.

    Meanwhile, three incumbents, running as a slate for reelection, have countered with a full-throated defense of Brim’s “stable” “experienced” “effective” management.

    I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Brim has reduced hospital expenses and improved accounting procedures and collections, although some of their cuts have come too close to the bedside, potentially jeopardizing Palm Drive’s reputation for excellent patient care. In addition, some of Brim’s accounting has been confusing and incomplete.

    But the basic problem lies with the Brim contract itself — something for which the entire Palm Drive board, on both sides of this election, is to blame.

    What problems? To begin, if Palm Drive did attempt to terminate Brim’s contract, we’d need to take action in a Tennessee courtroom under Tennessee law — because, inexplicably, that’s what the contract dictates. Forget that the Palm Drive district, board and hospital all are located in Sonoma County — Tennessee law governs.

    Another major problem — when buying critical medical goods and services, Brim now turns to a group purchasing organization, run by Brim, that kicks back to Brim up to 3% of its total expenditures. This arrangement would pose a grave conflict of interest if conducted by a District employee, but Brim’s contract explicitly allows it.

    The biggest flaw of all? According to the contract, our “permanent” hospital CEO must be an “at-will employee of Brim, subject to all policies and procedures of Brim.” The contract allows the CFO to be a Brim employee as well. Should Palm Drive terminate or fail to renew Brim’s agreement, the contract prohibits the District from directly hiring any Brim employee, even its own CEO and CFO, for at least one year.

    I see major disadvantages to Palm Drive in this arrangement. Requiring the CEO to be an at-will Brim employee, dependent on Brim and the renewal of Brim’s contract for his or her continued employment, is a direct conflict of interest that should never have been allowed — yet the board unanimously approved this contract last year. Given Brim’s dominant role in managing Palm Drive’s finances, accounting, purchasing, employment, etc., the CEO and CFO should answer directly and exclusively to the Palm Drive board, not to Brim.

    So where is the middle ground for Palm Drive and Brim?

    First, despite the escalating accusations, I’ve seen no legitimate grounds to terminate Brim’s contract. That risky course would cost the District hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses that we desperately need to stay out of bankruptcy and on the road to self-sufficiency. It also would plunge the District into chaos as destructive as the board’s ill-advised crusade against hospital management last year.

    At the same time, the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” attitude of the incumbents running for reelection isn’t leadership — it’s self-defense. Because of the flaws in Brim’s contract — especially the lack of an independent CEO and CFO — the Palm Drive board must be even more vigilant in monitoring Brim’s performance and holding them accountable. We can work cooperatively with Brim — but with our eyes wide open.

    Finally, the board should seek to renegotiate Brim’s contract and make the CEO and CFO District employees, answerable directly to the Board and the people of the Palm Drive Health Care District. If elected, I will work to that end.

    I would appreciate your consideration and your vote on November 2. If you’d like to support or contribute to my campaign, please visit the link below.


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  3. Nancy Dobbs says:

    I am running for one of the 2 four-year seats on the Palm Drive Hospital Board.  I am doing so because I believe the current board (which I have been a part of for three and a half years), together with the remarkable Palm Drive staff and the strong management team, has made unprecedented strides in building a positive future for our local hospital. 

    Crisis management and bankruptcy are behind us.  Palm Drive is no longer running at a deficit and has begun making investments to improve our services to the community, including a new and larger rehab center, electronic medical records, and more.  We can point with pride to the outstanding patient satisfaction scores, the nationally certified Primary Stroke Center, the innovative Telemedicine program linking seven North Coast hospitals with Palm Drive, and many other similar, remarkable accomplishments at our very own hospital.

    We are at the beginning of a revolution in the delivery of health care in this country, spurred by national health care reform.  While the reform is not as much as some of us would have hoped, it is an important and historic beginning.  Palm Drive needs a board which understands the significance of this moment, is capable of analyzing the options, and will shape the best alternatives for health care in West County.  With my thirty six years of involvement with state and local health care policy, I contribute to our board a valuable perspective on how our local hospital must respond to this new environment.

    I appreciate your consideration of my candidacy and would urge you as well to consider that of my colleagues on the board, Chris Dawson and Linda Johnson. Together I think we make a team that understands the challenges and can continue to move Palm Drive forward on a path to success for us all.

    There is information about my experience and supporters at http://www.nancydobbs.org/
    or at the League of Women Voters Smart Voter site:

    Thanks for your consideration of my candidacy.

    Nancy Dobbs




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  4. Linda J. Johnson
    Occupational Therapist
    Re-Elect for Two-Year Term

    I have been an occupational therapist since 1971 specializing in pediatrics, geriatrics and physical rehabilitation. I have been active in the design, development, operations and marketing for two acute hospital based therapy departments including Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA. I have been in private practice since 1987 and have owned and operated two private clinics specializing in hand therapy, physical therapy, biofeedback, ergonomics and industrial rehabilitation. I sold my last practice to a national rehabilitation corporation and continued to grow the business with seven new locations of hand rehabilitation clinics in Northern California.

    I moved to Sebastopol in 1999 with my husband and have become very active in volunteer work in many non-profit community organizations since then. In 2006 I was elected by the residents of West County at a time when few people wanted to be involved with solving the numerous challenges facing the hospital’s existence. I served as President, Palm Drive Healthcare District for 18 months during the hospital’s most vulnerable time. I am the only candidate running for re-election for a two-year term to the Palm Drive Healthcare District Board on November 2

    Much hard work has been done over the last four years! Outstanding physicians, surgeons, hospital staff and dedicated citizens of West County have supported the need for quality local healthcare. Palm Drive Hospital is now able to face the challenges affecting our communities’ healthcare needs and the future health of our children. I am happy to report that this last year has been the best year since the community took over Palm Drive Hospital. Exiting bankruptcy and ending our fiscal year with a 2.7 million dollar gain in net revenue has laid the groundwork for facing future health care challenges.

    There is more to do!

    The success of Palm Drive Hospital and our doctors is dependent on our ability to recruit more primary and specialty physicians. To recruit physicians must include electronic medical records (EMR) and expansion of the Palm Drive Medical Center.

    Patient Safety and Satisfaction is our top priority. Employees and physicians must have the tools to exceed national standards in quality of care with a future including EMR and modern technology.

    Create a viable strategic plan that will lead to the future of Palm Drive Hospital. Collegial teamwork is essential on the board in their role of governance. Our future requires that all stakeholders, hospital management, medical staff and community leaders, work together as a team.

    So when you consider the two-year term candidate, I hope you will identify my experience and collegiality that I have brought to the Palm Drive Healthcare District. I am committed to “Keep the Momentum” of stability, profitability and innovation. Please review the accomplishments at Palm Drive Hospital on my website at http://www.electlindajohnson.com

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  5. I am Jared Dreyfus and I am running for the two-year seat on the Palm Drive Health District Board. I am an attorney, mediator and health care advocate.
    My connections to the hospital run back nearly as long as my 12 years of residency in Sebastopol. They began with volunteering for the campaign to provide the hospital financial stability that resulted in a 92% favorable vote. My piece was very small, but I was impressed with the level of community support for Palm Drive.
    Between care for family members and for me personally I have seen the matchless care delivered in our hospital.
    I joined the Auxiliary about six years ago and serve a weekly shift every Tuesday. About a year later I was asked to join the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation and have served on its board ever since, including two terms as president.
    I want to make sure that the nurses and other staff who provide that care are respected and protected.
    More broadly, I want to see the hospital put on a sustainable financial footing. This will take a number of approaches including building out the Medical Center and recruiting the doctors to staff it, joining and expanding the networks of small hospitals already in place and looking for similar opportunities.
    Our telemedicine program is established and growing, increasingly serving as a model for health care delivery in small hospitals like Palm Drive. Telemedicine has also helped us achieve status as a certified stroke center, one of only two in the county.
    We will also need to look to other places for models for our own growth. 12 years ago Silverton Hospital in Oregon was bankrupt (sound familiar ?) and now it is thriving and has grown a network of outpatient services and clinics around its service area.
    The district board has a mandate that covers the entire District. A network of outpatient facilities that reaches every part would benefit the community directly at the same time providing better support for the hospital. We’ll need to learn what we can from Silverton and several others.
    Please come to a candidate night (Palm Drive October 6, 6:30 PM and Monte Rio Community Center, October 18, 6:30 PM), see my website http://jareddreyfus.webs.com/ for more information.

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  6. Jim Horn says:

    As a resident of the Palm Drive Health Care District for nearly 30 years, I’m running for the board to promote conservative fiscal management, innovative programs and aggressive marketing. I’m not part of any slate or clique, because the Palm Drive board needs a strong, independent voice not beholden to any special interest or individual.

    I have eight years of successful public board experience with the Gravenstein Union School District, including formal training and hands-on experience with public budgeting and finance, employee relations, open meetings, and strategic planning. I understand how to work effectively as a team while maintaining public accountability. I’m proud that my colleagues have unanimously chosen me as Gravenstein board president for the last five years.

    I’ve also run a successful engineering firm for 24 years. During that time, I have designed many North Bay hospitals and health care facilities. I understand the complex regulatory environment that modern hospitals face and the challenges of running a successful business in tough economic times.

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  7. Chris Dawson says:

    My name is Chris Dawson, and I am a candidate for the Palm Drive Health Care District Board. I was appointed to the board in July to fill a vacancy and I am currently the vice president of the board.

    I have lived in the community for 32 years, where my wife Lisa and I have watched with great pride and admiration as the community has rallied around the hospital through all of the financial and operational ups and downs. This is an amazing story of a local community, driven by many dedicated individuals, working hard to maintain a vital institution.

    There has been great progress at the hospital over the last year, the quality scores, the measure of the medical care provided at the hospital, are the highest of any hospital in the county, and we are beginning to turn around the financial picture. We finally have positive momentum!

    There are challenges. The national health care reforms pose significant ramifications for our medical community. Kaiser, Sutter and Memorial hospitals are close by and continue to be aggressive competitors both for our patients and doctors. And our district board has struggled at times to be a positive influence in the hospital community.

    I am focusing my efforts on four areas I think are essential for the immediate and long-term viability of the hospital:

    1. Stabilize financial and organizational performance. While we celebrated our exit from bankruptcy in May and continue to see encouraging progress, our financial health remains fragile, and we need to maintain aggressive oversight of the key financial drivers of the hospital. Organizationally, one of the recurring themes I hear from hospital staff is the need for stability. There has been too much drama, too much turmoil, too many CEO’s. Our staff wants to come to work and focus on health care.

    2. Retain and recruit physicians. For a variety of reasons, it is tough being a physician in this area and we need to support our doctors who have remained so loyal and dedicated to this community. Equally important, we need to find creative ways to attract new physicians.

    3. Develop a strategic plan. We need to engage the community in a comprehensive strategic plan for the hospital, and be disciplined enough to use that community vision to guide our growth and innovation. This is long overdue, and is the essential tool needed to break the “crisis management” cycle that has us jumping from one crisis to the next

    4. Value team work. The board needs to set the tone by conducting itself in an open and positive manner that values teamwork. We need to work together and harness the passion and contributions of all stakeholders – the doctors, nurses, hospital staff and administration, our many volunteers, the Palm Drive Foundation, and the community.

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