Jon Friedenberg is touring Marin County in an effort to rally support for Marin General Hospital.
The hospital is due for a major operation to meet newer, more stringent earthquake codes. Freidenberg admits to two basic facts: the new construction is needed and it will be expensive.
Hospital officials will likely have to go to the people with a bond measure for roughly $350 million within the next three years. If Marin General Hospital can't raise the needed money and can't bring the hospital up to code, then the state could have the authority to shut it down.
That would mean Marin County would lose its only trauma facility. Marin General Hospital is the one facility in the county that provides cardiac surgery, neurosurgery and lab and deliver services.
Parts of the hospital are more than 50 years old however, past the "shelf life" of an average hospital, according to Friedenberg, and need to be brought up to date and to code. The central and east wings could be demolished or refurbished for outpatient or administrative support services. The west wing, built in the 1980s, is up to code.
"People would have to go someplace else to access this level of care and, in the case of a disaster, that's not OK for everyone," Friedenberg said. "Marin County is a wonderful place … and I have confidence we'll get this done."
It's just a matter of when. There is no set timetable to put a funding proposition before the voters.
The hospital isn't in any immediate danger, Friedenberg says. Even if a bond doesn't pass, officials could push back its deadline as much as 20 years. It's unlikely, however, the project would become more affordable in the future, he warned.
"Marin wants and deserves a full service hospital," said Supervisor Steve Kinsey. "Full service includes E.R. and trauma facilities, maternity services and emergency psychiatric facilities like we currently have at the hospital.
"We do need to work on a new hospital. Marin needs a hospital. We can't have people going to San Francisco or elsewhere when they need help right away."
There have been some concerns over a possible seven-story parking garage and the seeming lack of a helicopter landing area.
The proposed new Marin General Hospital is an ambitious plan that would bring more of its doctors and services on campus. The Marin Cancer Center, currently housed in a nearby building leased from Sutter Health, would be one of the facilities to move onto the main campus.
"If they can fit all their dreams onto the site, I'll be out front making the case for the new hospital to everyone. If we lose the hospital, it won't come back," said Kinsey, who also serves on the hospital's infrastructure committee. "I don't think it will come to that, though. I think the hospital will get done."