The Cottage hospitals in Santa Barbara and Goleta have received five-star ratings.

Santa Barbara and Goleta now boast the two best hospitals of the entire Central Coast, according to a new federal ratings system. Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (SBCH) and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital (GVCH) were two of just nine California hospitals to receive a five-star rating based on quality measurements for health care. Both hospitals are part of the Cottage Health system, which includes eight health care centers in Santa Barbara.

The federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) unveiled the star ratings on July 28, assigning a rating between one and five to 4,600 hospitals in the United States. Cottage Goleta and Santa Barbara are just two of 106 in the country (which amounts to 2.2 percent of the total evaluated) to receive a full five-star distinction.

The star ratings were calculated based on an aggregate of 64 other existing ratings, each of which measures a different aspect of quality health care. Areas measured include heart attack care and low post-surgery complication rates. The ratings are made available to the public on “Hospital Compare,” found online at

Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital

Keeping up quality conditions in a hospital involves putting the patients first, said Ron Werft, Cottage Health’s president and CEO. “It sounds like a slogan, but it’s very real to us,” he said. By studying the methods of other top-performing health-care centers across the country, he said, Cottage Health develops ways to craft its own working system.

Currently, the hospitals are attempting to form a program to identify “high risk” patients and strategically reach out to them. Technology plays a sizeable part as well: Cottage uses an unconventional “robot” in operating rooms to systematically kill bacteria on its own. Werft referred to the mechanical bacteria-killer as a “very robust antibiotic stewardship program.”

High accolades aren’t something new to Cottage Health. In April, Fortune Magazine listed Cottage as one of the 20 best workplaces in health care, reporting that the system “covers 97% of employees’ health care premiums.” Such conveniences are made available to a medical staff composed of more than 700 board-certified physicians.

The staff operates at a high level due to a homegrown notion of self-governance among the employees, Werft said. “We accept every employee who wants to participate in decisions,” he said. “When you have that kind of a culture, you tend to attract people at the top of their game who want to buy into the culture and make a difference.”

The elusive five-star rating is a huge “point of pride” for the hospitals, said Dr. Ed Wroblewksi, chief medical officer of Cottage Health. “It reaffirmed what’s been going on here for a long time,” he said. Gauging hospital quality with substantiated data, and not mere opinions, is what makes the recognition most fulfilling, he said.

Citing an approach of compassion as a key factor, Werft said Cottage Health’s dedication to patients has been established for years within the community. Practices like surveying every patient who comes through the hospitals has allowed Cottage to build long-term relationships with the community. “The trust is already very strong,” Werft said. “When you have an outside party give you a five-star rating, it is affirming that trust.”


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