By Tim Hunt
ValleyCare closes Livermore thrift storeUploaded: Jan 17, 2017
ValleyCare shuttered its decades-old thrift store operation in December because it was costing the hospital about $200,000 per year to operate the all-volunteer retail store on 2nd Street in downtown Livermore.
With the lease coming up, the landlord wanted a long-term agreement and a rent increase last year in keeping with the increasing values of downtown Livermore. The hospital’s volunteer auxiliary had operated the thrift store for literally decades in what was one-time the only JCPenney store in the Livermore Valley (pre-Stoneridge mall).
When ValleyCare President Scott Gregerson and his team started drilling into the numbers, it became a no-brainer to avoid the substantial loss and redeploy the volunteers. The shop was open six days a week (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays) and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. There were 73 volunteers working in the shop and most volunteered every week.
They contributed 16,118 hours in calendar 2016, just about one-third of the total auxiliary volunteer hours of 51,041.
Gregerson explained, “I want to honor their time commitment and this doesn’t feel like it is doing it. There are so many volunteers giving so much time and it ended up costing the hospital money. We could not go forward as a fiduciary of the hospital.”
He hopes to involve the volunteers more directly in the core of the hospital operations, recognizing that retail sales is not a core competency. And he knows how critical the auxiliary volunteers are to the health system operations.
In an interview, we touched on several other points now that ValleyCare is about 18 months into its affiliation with Stanford Health Care. He is particularly pleased to have the Stanford Health CEO David Entwistle serving as chair of the ValleyCare board.
Entwistle came to Stanford from the University of Utah medical center where he had built strong relationships with the community hospitals in the broader area.
“He is an extraordinary guy who is very well versed in the community hospital role within a larger university health system,” Gregerson said. “He’s brought what he learned in Utah here and is very evolved in his thinking with the community hospital/academic hospital relationship.”
There’s still a learning curve with ValleyCare being the only community hospital that is part of the Stanford system.
The Stanford commitment to the affiliation shows with both Entwistle and Lloyd Minor, the Dean of the Stanford medical school, both serving on the board.
“Both men have gone out of their way to support this community,” Gregerson said.
In addition to their expertise, the Stanford affiliation also has brought deep pockets to the table. One of the key projects that ValleyCare has undertaken is electronic medical records. Scott estimates they are about one-third of the way into the timeline. It’s a major challenge because before new equipment can be deployed, the staff must be trained and that must take place while the hospital still serves patients.
December was a very busy month in the emergency room, topped only by last July, which was the record for patient visits.
Gregerson said he was so pleased to lead the system with 1,400 employees plus about 500 physicians because he can get to know many employees as well as speak to patients every day. l.
He also appreciates the community and the many “altruistic” people who go out of their way to make the community better for all of us.