SUBMITTTED BY DR. GREG DUNCAN, CHIEF OF STAFF
SUTTER COAST HOSPITAL
Tomorrow, Tuesday 5/14, 10 a.m. at the Flynn Center (981 H. St.), the Board of Supervisors will be discussing whether or not to participate in Sutter Health’s “independent” study on the future of our hospital. The first five community members who Sutter asked to participate in the study, including Supervisor Mike Sullivan, declined to participate, over concerns that the study, which is being funded and directed by Sutter, is biased. The Healthcare District, Medical Staff of Sutter Coast Hospital, a Curry County Commissioner, and a local businessman also declined to participate in the study under the constraints imposed by the Sutter Health. A memo released by Sutter Health, before the study even started, reads in part “we believe that Sutter Health is the best partner for us now and in the future.” Following release of this memo, the outside funding for the study withdrew their support, over concern that Sutter Health had predetermined the results. Now, the study is being funded entirely by Sutter, and community participation is limited to four hours, during which time the community participants will be asked to choose one of the four consultants which Sutter Health has pre-screened. After that, community participation ends.
Sutter wants this study to provide cover for their long term plans for the hospital. Sutter Regional President Mike Cohill told the hospital Board that they were fairly being criticized for not looking at alternatives when they voted to transfer ownership of Sutter Coast Hospital to Sutter Health’s West Bay Region.
The following letter was sent to our Board of Supervisors this morning. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether or not the current study is valid.
Hope to see you tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Flynn Center.
Michael Sullivan, Chair
Del Norte County Board of Supervisors
981 H. St.
Crescent City, CA 95531
Our community is acutely aware of Sutter Health’s attempt to take ownership of our hospital, and of the possible implementation of Critical Access Hospital designation. In addition, the Medical Staff received a formal legal opinion last week which identifies several violations of California law within Sutter Health’s regional hospital bylaws. Furthermore, Medical Staff leadership is in contact with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation, and the Office of the California Attorney General in relation to our conflict with Sutter Health and the Board of Directors of Sutter Coast Hospital.
As you know, Sutter Health has initiated a strategic options study for Sutter Coast Hospital. The hospital Board initially approved a collaboratively funded study, but the study is now entirely funded and coordinated by Sutter. Our feedback from the community indicates they perceive Sutter’s study as illegitimate. All of the five community members or groups who were initially asked to participate in the study, including the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, declined to do so, citing multiple concerns, including the study design, minimal community participation, and lack of independent funding. I (GJD) was dismissed from the Board room during the planning phase of the study, even though I am an ex officio member of the hospital Board of Directors.
Independent funding for the study evaporated after Sutter Health study coordinator Traci Van sent a talking points memo to the hospital Board which stated, “we believe Sutter Health is the best partner for us now and in the future.” The independent funding source for the study withdrew their support over concerns the study results had been predetermined by Sutter Health.
The general consensus among the community members who were invited but declined to participate in the hospital study is that Sutter Health was merely using them to provide a veil of legitimacy to an illegitimate process. As written by a local resident who declined to participate in Sutter’s study,
“I will not be participating in the selection committee. While it is clear that a study needs to be done, front-loading it with a few community names to validate it, serves no purpose at this point because of the tainted community feeling towards the whole process.”
The Healthcare District resolved unanimously not to participate in the study under the current constraints imposed by Sutter Health. The hospital physicians have twice resolved not to participate for the same reason. Community participation is limited to four hours during the selection of one of the consultants pre-approved by Sutter.
The Supervisors may be unaware of the following additional information regarding the community participants:
(1) Community participants are not allowed to discuss the study proposals with one another before the conference calls with the consultants, nor are they allowed to bring any other community members in the loop. Board Chair Ken Hall wrote that “bringing others into the loop, even as advisers in the background, will slow down the process, lead to interminable delays, and muddy the results.”
(2) The Request for Proposal contains information which appears to be inaccurate.
(3) The hospital Board has been excluded from all of the conference calls with the consulting firms, and the Board was not provided the proposals nor the cost information from each consultant until I specifically asked for this material on 5/10/13, even though Sutter Coast Hospital is paying for the study.
Before the Supervisors make a final decision on whether to participate in Sutter’s study, the undersigned would like to provide relevant documents to all of the Supervisors.
The undersigned would also like to understand the process which led to your selection of Supervisor McClure to participate in the study. I contacted Supervisor Sullivan on 4/7/13 with concerns that Sutter Health would use community members in an attempt to provide legitimacy to their study, and I contacted the entire Board of Supervisors on 4/20/13 with additional concernsand notification that the Medical Staff would not participate under the constraints imposed by Sutter Health. Would it be possible to poll the vote of 4/9/13?
We have heard that Supervisor McClure was selected to work with Sutter Health during the closed session meeting of 4/9/13, but we did not find this item on the meeting Agenda, meeting minutes, or within the Action items for the closed session of the 4/9/13 meeting. Also, we received no notification that the Board of Supervisors had appointed a member to represent them on the Sutter study until I was notified by Sutter Health on 5/2/13.
We are not questioning your authority to appoint a member to participate in Sutter Health’s study. We simply would like to be informed when the Supervisors exercise such authority. We also wish to work together with the Supervisors on this vital community issue.
Gregory Duncan, M.D.
Kevin Caldwell, M.D.
Donna Sund, D.O