The Californian: Opinion – Nathan Olivas, Sam Downing and the Pyramids of Giza

NewsJune 22, 2011

Terrific opinion piece in The Californian:

In his editorial in the June 7 edition of The Salinas Californian, Nathan Olivas made the argument that Sam Downing deserves the large salary, severance package and pension plan that were given to him (by Olivas and the rest of his cohorts on the hospital board) because Downing was responsible for “the transformation of a rural facility, providing basic services, to one of the finest hospitals in the country.”

Olivas goes on to delineate two other factors that aided Downing in this transformation — “the economy” and “an astute board of directors (again Olivas and his cohorts). Using this approach, one might expect that Olivas would come away from Giza, Egypt, with the idea that the great pyramids of Giza were built by the pharaoh; however, contrary to this elitist perspective, the pyramids were built from the bottom up and not from the top down. The pyramids were built by those who did the impossible, who carried immovable stone blocks and piled them up into the massive structures over many years, working 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Thousands of slaves worked tirelessly while the pharaoh feasted at lavish meals and while he slept in his royal bed. They also worked while he was abroad on his numerous campaigns. Like the great pyramids, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital was built from “a rural facility to one of the finest hospitals in the country” by the same process — from the ground up and not from the top down. It was the incredible staff of the hospital, including the nurses, therapists, laboratory personnel, janitorial crew, maintenance crew, dietary personnel and the doctors who built the hospital one large stone block at a time.

Like the thousands who worked to build the pyramids, it was this large group of dedicated people who carried the banner “neighbors who care” on their backs that made SVMH into an exceptional hospital. It is so sad but also so telling that Olivas and also Downing have so little appreciation for the people who actually did the work. When Olivas was making his list of the things that built the success of the hospital, he totally ignores and is blind to the hundreds of dedicated hospital workers. He rather heaps his accolades on the director of the hospital and the hospital board (including himself, of course).

In conclusion, the editorial set forth by Olivas is very instructive. It gives an insight into the mentality of those who were guiding the hospital over the many years when Downing was in charge. It shows a callous disregard for the workers at the hospital and, at the same time, demonstrates a commitment to reward those in power. Interestingly, when things went downhill over the last few years, the same people like Olivas, who wanted to reward Downing for the success of the hospital, did not want to hold him accountable for its problems. What a surprise.

Norman Rosen, M.D., has been a physician at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital over the past 34 years.