Last Saturday night, in between waves of rainstorms, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation held its grand and oh-so-elegant Tiara Ball at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara. More than 500 people RSVP’d for the event, billed as the Party of the Year, and most of them braved the foul weather to support our community nonprofit teaching hospital. The event’s net proceeds will help fund the extensive remodeling and expansion of the Emergency Department currently underway. The event grossed more than $500,000.
Guests, many in smashing formal attire, some with fashionable tiaras, mingled during the cocktail hour before adjourning to the ballroom, which was exquisitely draped in red and gold satin, with silk- and velvet-dressed tables and enormous chandeliers covered in transparent silk drums. Projections of red leaves graced the walls and big screens. The ballroom was the creation of Host Committee Chair Alex Nourse, who has been at the helm for the past three balls, and her committee of 15.
Nourse welcomed the guests and incoming Board Chair Greg Faulkner addressed the crowd, praising outgoing Chair Steve Ainsley for setting a tone of civility, intelligence, and compassion and thanking guests for their generous support, which is necessary for Cottage to provide the excellent level of service it does. Faulkner noted how since the hospital opened in December 1891, patient care has continued uninterrupted every day; the hospital doors have never closed. He attributed this remarkable feat to dedicated and visionary physicians, excellent staff, committed volunteers, and the ongoing financial support of the Santa Barbara community.
President and CEO Ron Werft gave a special shout out to the California Highway Patrol for its amazing job of helping staff get to the hospital during the 1/9 Debris Flow and again in the last 24 hours. After quickly thanking many others, Werft drew lots of nods and much laughter when he remarked how there are two characteristics of this event that have made it so successful: a short program and no auction. He kept his word, though before yielding the floor to Area 51 to start the dance tunes, he did share some brief but important remarks.
In paying tribute to the staff, Werft stated that the “Events of early 2018 made evident the skill, professionalism, and compassion of the caregivers at Cottage.“ For two weeks, staff arrived by plane, boat, and CHP-led caravans. And every day, Werft noted, staff works quietly and consistently to serve the community.
Werft shared his excitement that after 14 years of building and operating a hospital at the same time on the same site, Cottage recently completed all of the new construction. He thanked the “Dream Team” of the capital campaign: Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, Peter MacDougall, Palmer Jackson, and Michael Towbes. He noted that while the majority of the hospital opened in 2012, the last phase added much more, including having all services of Cottage Children’s Medical Center adjacent to one another. There is a new amphitheater for medical, nursing, and community education and a museum to honor the 127 years of service to the community.
The capital campaign raised $110 million from more than 6,000 donors for the $820 million project. The only remaining work is the renovation of the existing emergency room, which is slated for completion in the fall of 2020, and will feature an innovative new model of emergency care. There will be private treatment spaces, a dedicated pediatric area, and a CT scanner. Last year, the ER served about 46,000 patients. Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region, serving all of Santa Barbara County and parts of Ventura and SLO counties. For the entire hospital last year, there were 18,000 admissions and 134,000 outpatient visits (including ER).
In closing, Werft reported how in 2018 Cottage continued to receive its unbroken string of Five Star ratings for quality care and patient safety from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is one of only six California hospitals — out of 450 —that are Five Star-rated. Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital is one of the other six.
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By Gail Arnold