Monterey County Herald opinion: Fears of a Private SVMH
April 27th, 2011
By JOHN BORSOS and MARILYNBENSON
Mention “Salinas” to most Californians, and a cascade of images and literary references come to mind: farming, the rodeo, John Steinbeck, the international air show. The last thing one thinks of is multimillion-dollar Wall Street corporate takeovers.
Yet that may be what is occurring right now at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Last week, SVMH CEO Sam Downing abruptly announced his resignation. His announcement came shortly after a special closed-door meeting of the hospital’s elected board of directors, and just one day after hospital officials announced their intention to lay off 200 nurses, technicians and other caregivers by summer.
Downing has been with SVMH for 40 years. In recent years, he has been one of the most highly compensated public employees in the state of California. In 2009, Downing was paid $2.1 million from numerous taxpayer-funded pension plans, on top of his nearly $800,000 yearly salary.
It’s hard to imagine that Downing’s sudden decision to step down is just a coincidence — our suspicion is that it is the first step in an effort by the board of directors to privatize the hospital.