Introduction by Dr. Greg Duncan:
Today’s guest editorial is written by Marcy Bohannon, former Sutter Coast Hospital Medical Staff coordinator. Marcy discusses her experience with having her husband transferred to another hospital by air ambulance–an event which will become more common if Sutter Coast Hospital enacts the decision by its Board of Directors to downsize to a Critical Access facility.
We are facing two very different futures for healthcare in our region.
The Sutter future: Downsize the hospital, outsource jobs, disband the local hospital Board, and transfer hospital ownership to a Sutter corporation 350 miles away, where Sutter executives make all future decisions on our hospital care.
Our model: Expand health services, add doctors, retain local jobs, and continue local hospital ownership and governance.
If you support our model, please stop by my office on 1200 Marshall St. to pick up more information and add your name to the thousands of residents who oppose Sutter’s plans for our community. We also need volunteers to help distribute petitions, and we want to hear your experiences and ideas about healthcare. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three years ago, Sutter Health began their plan to transfer ownership of Sutter Coast Hospital to Sutter’s multi-hospital corporation in San Francisco. Thanks to your efforts to oppose Sutter, Sutter Coast still remains a locally owned hospital, and has not yet downsized to Critical Access designation.
Sutter Health is now the focus of a national crisis–healthcare costs. Locally we see the impact in our hospital bills. Less well known are Sutter’s other decisions, made in the secrecy of the closed hospital Board room, where Sutter Health executives bring their plans to our community. But thanks to you, the word is getting out–our newsletter is read by more than 50,000 citizens statewide, from all backgrounds and political affiliations.
Guest Editorial by Marcy Bohannon, Crescent City, CA
Critical Access Hospital: Benefit to Sutter Health and Impact on Us
As a retired employee of Sutter Coast Hospital (SCH), I would like to share my thoughts on the SCH Board of Director’s decision to downsize SCH to a “Critical Access” hospital.
My husband and I know from personal experience the burdens, both financial and personal, that a family suffers when a loved one has to be transferred to a hospital in another city to receive their care. Not only are there ground and air ambulance fees, but no insurance pays for a family to travel to the hospital of transfer, nor do they cover the cost of lodging for the patient’s family or the cost of the return trip home.
Our local SCH Board decided to downsize our local hospital from 49 beds to 25 beds to qualify for higher Medicare payments. It is not possible to know exactly how many patients will need to be flown out for the lack of beds or lack of hospital staff, but here is something that both Sutter Health and our community agree on:
If Sutter downsizes the hospital, more of our local residents and visitors will require an emergency air flight to another hospital. In other words, both sides agree it will be ugly; the only question is, how ugly?
Besides the huge cost, transferring people to other hospitals is harmful because it often means family and friends cannot be with their loved ones when they are hospitalized. Separating patients from their family and friends is harmful to the healing process. Keeping family and friends together is very comforting for the patient, family, and the hospital staff, and helps ensure the patient receives his or her usual medications.
Here is a final point of agreement between our community and Sutter: Critical Access will bring more money to Sutter Health. But the money does not stay in the community. Every two weeks, Sutter Health removes all of the “excess cash” from the hospital and transfers it to the “Sutter Health Treasury,” where the money becomes the property of Sutter Health. No wonder Sutter Health wants to downsize us to Critical Access. But what does that say about priorities?
Sutter Health is a tax exempt charity. On paper, they are required to act in the public interest. But in reality, Sutter’s high charges for care and skyrocketing executive salaries are benefitting Sutter executives, not the public. We can stop Sutter’s plans for us, and bring their actions to light. But only if we speak up, and work together. Please share your thoughts with Dr. Duncan.