Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

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:
Less well known is that in a separate antitrust lawsuit, Sutter officials intentionally destroyed 192 boxes of evidence:
This year, Sutter Health’s charges were featured in the LA Times. The article includes some of our community’s concerns with Sutter Health:
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, 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
(707) 465-5566
7 thoughts on “From Crescent City to National Media – our History with Sutter Health”
  1. Before my husband died of sepsis in October 2019 he had been seen in the ER in the same week five times. The gash on his leg was treated with an atiseptic wash and bandage and he was given a tetanus shot. Antibiotics which were not prescribed by any of the ER physicians would have saved his life. The ER staff proved to be completely incompetent. I suggest for any emergency assistance to go to another hospital where the doctors have a good reputation for complete patient care.

  2. i will never forget the haunting words of a former board member Teri McCune who stated to me the reason why our healthcare costs were so high was because 90% of the people who walk into Sutter are welfare recipients and she said, “we got to get the money from somewhere,” meaning, those of us who have insurance we get charged triple the amount…

  3. During chemo and radiation at St. Joe’s my standard blood lab work cost about $40 and insurance covered the whole thing. I had just finished and was feeling poorly, so I went to Sutter Coast to get the same labs done, rather than drive down to Eureka. Sutter made me go through a full admissions process and “admitted” me for a blood draw for the exact same labs I do at St. Joe’s. I sat in the waiting room for about 30 minutes (max wait is usually about 5 to 10 at St. Joe’s), had my blood drawn, and left. I couldn’t believe it when I got the bill for around $780 from Sutter. I don’t recall exactly how much of that insurance covered (I could look it up with Anthem, I guess), but whatever it was it wasn’t enough. It’s an outrage. I haven’t gone to Sutter for labs since then, last year.

  4. Thank you, Kevin Caldwell, MD for the sober reminder Sutter Health must be regularly reminded of its mission in Del Norte County.
    I will continue my vigilance making certain our Healthcare Board does NOT give back vital services which Sutter Coast was all too eager to eliminate not so very long ago when the Corporate giant attempted to downsize from Acute Care to Critical Access.

    I will continue to encourage my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to demand tbe very highest level of services to ALL who count on Sutter Coast Hospital.

    Roger Gitlin
    District 1 Supervisor

  5. Thank you for all you and Dr Duncan are doing for our community. It would be nice to be able to use healthcare in Crescent City. Driving 120 or miles each way is getting daunting.

  6. I’m so grateful to Dr. Caldwell and their commintment to staying on top of this issue. It is ridiculous what Sutter charges. Esther Cupp.

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