By Tim Hunt
Recalling the ups and downs of ValleyCare's 60 yearsUploaded: Dec 21, 2021
The Weekly’s cover story last week celebrated the 60 years that ValleyCare Health System has served Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin.
Reporter Julia Baum laid out the history well through interviews with Stanford ValleyCare CEO Rick Shumway and long-time physician John Yee, who also served as chief of staff and as a board member. As one who covered the hospital professionally for about 40 years, I wanted to share that perspective.
The original hospital was built on donated land in Livermore and opened as Valley Memorial Hospital. Livermore was the center of the valley then with the largest population. Dublin was just starting its first housing tract, San Ramon Village, while Pleasanton had a population of 4,203. It more than quadrupled to 18,328 by 1970. The hospital was funded in part by monthly donations from community members who became voting members of the non-profit.
About 15 years later, the board purchased 23 acres where the current hospital stands in Pleasanton at West Las Positas and Santa Rita roads. During the 1980s, there was considerable debate about how to use the Pleasanton site and whether it should be the primary hospital and emergency room.
At the time, the state had burdensome requirements for adding hospital beds and the for-profit San Ramon Regional Hospital was being planned. Talk to a San Ramon Valley resident about medical care and hospitals back then and they were unhappy. The nearest emergency room was at John Muir Hospital a few miles out Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek with Livermore a longer alternative.
For ValleyCare, getting to the Pleasanton site to be closer to the I-580/I-680 intersection became a priority. It wasn’t easy as opponents of building the Pleasanton facility won seats on the board. In the end, the board came together to break ground on the Pleasanton site and maintain level some services in Livermore. Today, the original hospital is used for skilled nursing and is complemented by urgent care and medical offices that were built later.
The Pleasanton facility opened in 1991 and operated well until it stumbled coming out of the Great Recession. The board, led by Chair John Sensiba, recognized that it needed to merge with a stronger partner for the future of the hospital. The non-profit had lost money in four of five years and was violating covenants with revenue bond holders. Long-time CEO Marcy Feit left in February 2014 and the merger with Stanford was finalized in 2015.
That set for the stage for a massive Stanford investment in ValleyCare, including new digital medical records. That was guaranteed at $50 million over the first three years. With the merged hospital now financially stable, it gives Stanford the opportunity to extend its services further into the East Bay and beyond.
Health care has changed dramatically and residents can be thankful that they have a strong local hospital to serve their needs. Consider on one block in Dublin you have Sutter Health and ValleyCare facilities while a joint venture between Muir and San Ramon Regional is a few blocks from ValleyCare’s hospital.