by Kevin Caldwell, M.D. – July 8, 2018 –
My relationship with Sutter Health began in 1988, when I was Chief of Staff and a Board Member of Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, CA. At that time, our community enjoyed a positive relationship with Sutter Health, which advertised itself as “Community Based, Not for Profit.”
But in 2010, Sutter Health executives decided it was time to end their former relationship with communities across California. Sutter began dissolving local hospital boards and moving hospital ownership to distant corporations entirely controlled by Sutter Health.
In 2010, I was again Chief of Staff and a Board Member at Sutter Coast Hospital. Behind the closed doors of the Hospital Board Room, it was clear that Sutter Health executives had decided that dissolving our local Hospital Board, and moving hospital ownership to San Francisco, was in Sutter’s best interest. Less clear to me was that Sutter’s plan was in the best interest of our community. I was also concerned that Sutter Health had started implementing patient care policies at Sutter Coast Hospital without any input from the hospital doctors. Sutter Coast no longer seemed “Community Based.” Ultimately, the Joint Commission, (which certifies hospitals), cited Sutter for misconduct regarding its patient care policies.
Thanks to overwhelming community support, we derailed Sutter Health’s plan to dissolve local ownership of Sutter Coast Hospital. Today, Sutter Coast is the only community owned and governed hospital in the entire Sutter system. According to hospital CEO Mitch Hanna, “There are absolutely no plans to regionalize at this time or in the foreseeable future.”
I remain profoundly grateful to our community and its elected leaders who stood together to stop Sutter Health.
Today, our focus is on health care costs. Any patient, employer, or insurer who pays for health care knows the impact of Sutter’s charges on budgets. Sutter is facing multiple lawsuits over its business practices, including allegations by the California Attorney General that Sutter officials violated antitrust law as they raised prices and funneled the profits into executive salaries:
story/news/nation/2018/03/30/ sutter-health- lawsuitcalifornia-hospital- consolidation/474742002/
Less well known is that in a separate antitrust lawsuit, Sutter officials intentionally destroyed 192 boxes of evidence: http://sacramento.cbslocal.
This year, Sutter Health’s charges were featured in the LA Times. The article includes some of our community’s concerns with Sutter Health: https://www.latimes.com/
If you would like to see more accessible, affordable health care, here is how you can help: (1) Share your concerns and ideas with me, or the Del Norte Healthcare District, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (707) 464-9494. The Healthcare District’s open public meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Wellness Center at 550 E. Washington Blvd., suite 400.
(2) Share your hospital bills. You can request an itemized hospital bill from Sutter Coast by calling (707) 464-8511 and asking for the billing department. Because Sutter officials meet behind closed doors, and are refusing to release hospital meeting records and finances, your hospital bills help us learn about Sutter’s charges.
(3) Talk to Sutter Coast Hospital Board members, most of whom live in our community, and some of whom have stated they want to represent the community’s interests. A list of Hospital Board Members is found in the main lobby of Sutter Coast Hospital.
(4) Contact your elected representatives. Report your concerns with outrageous heath care charges, and demand an end to tax exempt status for organizations like Sutter, which operate behind closed doors.
Please share this article with your friends, post on social media, and contact me if you would like to join our volunteer effort to expand and improve health care in our community.
Kevin Caldwell, M.D.
Redwood Medical Offices
Crescent City, California