Dolores Huerta: Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital’s Board of Directors needs to serve the community

NewsJuly 19, 2016

By Dolores Huerta

The standoff between caregivers and executives at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital shows the alarming extent to which a profit-first corporate mentality has infected the public hospital and its administrators. 

Even though the hospital is supported by tax dollars, Salinas Valley Memorial is nevertheless doing all it can to maximize revenues at the expense of its caregivers and patients. 

SVMH’s profit margin is more than double the state average, making it one of the most profitable hospitals in California. Its executives make about seven times as much as the average caregiver, and about fourteen times as much as the lowest-paid caregiver. CEO Pete Delgado’s salary — already well above average for a hospital CEO — jumped nearly 40 percent after less than two years on the job. 

Yet the hospital’s executives and board of directors recently implemented deep cuts to workers’ livelihoods and have taken no steps toward fixing the staffing issues and other problems that affect the quality of care SVMH provides to the community. 

While profits continue to rise, Pete Delgado, along with Rafael Garcia and the rest of the hospital’s elected board of directors, have hit workers with drastic cuts and other changes. Delgado and Garcia have sharply increased the cost of caregivers’ healthcare premiums, making it more difficult for them to provide for their families. They’ve also implemented mandatory overtime, leaving workers scrambling to arrange care and rides for their children. And they’ve demanded the right to strip the community of good local jobs by subcontracting positions to out-of-area workers. (Delgado’s salary increase alone would pay the annual salaries of several of the caregivers whose jobs he wants to eliminate.)

On top of that, Delgado and Garcia have provided no increase in staffing and no voice for caregivers in determining staffing levels and patient care standards. 

Assemblymember Luis Alejo offered to resolve this dispute, but Delgado and company refused to allow him to mediate. Instead, SVMH officials propose fact finding — a process that would only prolong the 15-month standoff. 

There’s no need to go searching for the facts. The facts are clear: For SVMH administrators, no amount of profit is enough. They have made a series of unilateral, top-down decisions without any input from their front-line caregivers, and these decisions have and will continue to have severe impacts on patient care. 

The hospital’s board of directors — Rafael Garcia, Carmen Gil, Victor Rey, Chris Orman, and Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin —  needs to stop rubber-stamping the profit-driven policies of the CEO and start prioritizing the needs of the community that elected them. 

Dolores Huerta is president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and cofounder of the United Farm Workers Union.