On October 17, the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics honored Cottage Health President and CEO Ron Werft at its Healthcare Heroes Luncheon at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. About 240 guests turned out to pay tribute to Werft and support the SBNC at the first Healthcare Heroes luncheon since 2012.
Board President Jim Armstrong and CEO/Chief Medical Director Dr. Charles Fenzi welcomed the guests and a short video explained the comprehensive services SBNC offers and the need to acquire a new facility for the Westside Clinic, which is part of its $20 million Healthy People Healthy Communities Campaign.
Peter MacDougall praised Werft, who has been at Cottage Health since 1987 and President/CEO since 2000, as a tremendous leader. He proclaimed that “the community has been blessed to have his competence, integrity, and commitment to quality healthcare and to this community.” Werft, he continued, “cannot only deliver in terms of professional leadership but delivers in terms of caring about this community and ensuring that all of us who reside in the community have the very best in terms of health services.”
He lauded Werft for the completion of Cottage Hospital’s three new buildings, an extraordinary feat which MacDougall maintains would not have happened without Werft at the helm. MacDougall chaired the Campaign Cabinet that raised $110 million for the new $820 million Cottage Hospital and chairs SBNC’s Campaign Cabinet.
Annually, Cottage Health serves about 120,000 patients and has about 70,000 emergency room visits. It has hospitals in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and the Santa Ynez Valley, and has 700 medical staff members, 1,100 volunteers, and 3,500 employees.
Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics is a Federally Qualified Health Center that offers integrated medical, dental, and behavioral health services to patients regardless of their ability to pay. SBNC takes major insurance and operates on a sliding fee scale. Reimbursement for patient services generates 75 percent of its revenue and a federal grant program provides more than $1 million annually, but SBNC needs to raise about 20 percent of its budget each year from other sources.
While the Affordable Care Act has increased the number of people with insurance, 25 percent of SBNC’s patients remain uninsured. Moreover, many with insurance cannot afford needed healthcare offered by other providers because of high deductibles or excluded services. SBNC has medical clinics on the Westside, on the Eastside, in Goleta, and in Isla Vista. It has dental clinics on the Eastside and in Goleta and an integrated care clinic on the Westside. SBNC serves more than 21,000 unduplicated patients each year.
Its Healthy People Healthy Communities Campaign, which launched earlier this year, aims to raise $11.5 million for ongoing operating expenses and $8.5 million for capital projects. Most significant among the capital projects is a new facility for the Westside, the area that has been identified as having the greatest unmet need for healthcare services. The current facility on Micheltorena is a converted home built in the 1920s.
In making a leadership grant to SBNC’s campaign, Werft noted that “SBNC strengthens the wellbeing of our entire community by offering a broad range of affordable health care programs for people in need.” According to former Congresswoman Lois Capps, a former Healthcare Hero award recipient, SBNC “represents affordable and accessible healthcare at its best.”
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By Gail Arnold