Saturday, February 15, 2014

How to stop Sutter from downsizing our hospital

Working together, we can stop Sutter Health from implementing their corporate plan for our healthcare
Yesterday, I was contacted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) regarding Critical Access Designation at Sutter Coast Hospital.  CDPH is seeking input from local residents.  They want to know if local residents approve of downsizing the hospital, and how it will affect you and your loved ones.  They asked where we will be transferring patients when the hospital is full due to the 25 bed cap imposed by Critical Access.  (Answer:  Wherever a bed is available between Portland and San Francisco). 
 
At the end of this guest editorial, please read how you can help stop Sutter Health from downsizing our region's only hospital.

Guest Editorial by Leah Eidam, Crescent City, CA

On 12/5/13, Sutter Health executives and the Sutter Coast Hospital Board voted to downsize Sutter Coast to a Critical Access Hospital.  In response, the Del Norte Healthcare District, a local government body elected to promote health services for county residents, voted unanimously to oppose Sutter's plans. The Healthcare District resolved to "explore all alternatives to maintain local ownership and shared governance of our hospital."

Sutter wants you to think they cannot be stopped.  They are wrong.  Let's support the Healthcare District and tell Sutter it is NOT over.   The State of California and the Federal Government will decide whether Critical Access will be granted to Sutter Health.  That means YOU not Sutter Health will make the decision.  Voice YOUR opinion.

What YOU need to know:

1) Sutter Health is a tax-exempt public benefit charity funded by billions of dollars in tax-exempt bonds.   Their purpose for existing is to help YOU.  This is very important to remember as you read further.
2) A Sutter Executive has said that Crescent City "was not sophisticated enough" to understand Regionalization.  Was he talking about YOU?
3) Sutter Hospital rates are roughly 60% higher than other hospitals in California.  Does that hurt YOU?
4) The steady decline in privately insured patients at Sutter Coast is due, in large part, to patients from Crescent City travelling to other hospitals in California and Oregon, where the same care costs 60% less than at our local hospital.  Do YOU have to travel for your healthcare?

NOW THE REASONS WHY:

1) Between 2007 and 2012 many Sutter Health executives doubled their own compensation.
2) Sutter Health CEO Pat Fry's compensation increased from $2,287,763 in 2007 to $6,393,883 in 2012.  That's a $4,106,120 increase--almost triple.
3) In 2012, the top 10 Sutter Health executives were paid a total of $27,644,426.  That's millions, folks.
4) Their salaries are paid from YOUR hospital bills.  Remember the 60% more YOU pay at Sutter Coast.
5) Every year from 1985, when Sutter took over the hospital, until 2010 the hospital was profitable.  The only time the hospital reported losses was after they got rid of the Chief Financial Officer. 
6) There has been no independent audit of the Hospital finances since 2007. 
If all of this seems very unfair, YOUR help is needed.  Remember YOUR hospital is a tax-exempt public benefit charity.   There are avenues available to BLOCK conversion to Critical Access.

In addition to Sutter's plan to downsize our hospital to Critical Access, do YOU want to continue to support and pay exorbitant salaries to executives in San Francisco by paying 60% more for your health care?  If the answer is no, please read on to learn how to stop Sutter Health . . .

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP SUTTER HEALTH

Take a few minutes to write a letter.  Three sentences is enough.  Here are some facts for letters:

  • Critical Access was funded in order to improve healthcare access by subsidizing tiny hospitals.  By cutting beds to qualify, Sutter is using the program to reduce access to care in order to increase their payments from Medicare. 

  • At Sutter Lakeside Hospital, where Sutter cut beds to qualify for Critical Access designation in 2008, emergency patient transfers out of Lakeside quadrupled, and Sutter Lakeside became the number one recipient of Medicare funds among the nation's 1300 Critical Access hospitals.

  • Critical Access at Sutter Coast will result in patients being airlifted to outside hospitals--at the patients' expense, separated from their family, friends, and local doctor, and responsible for their return trip home. 

The California agency which oversees hospitals converting to Critical Access states the program is intended to preserve access and improve quality of healthcare services to rural Californians.  If you believe downsizing the hospital does not fit that goal, write letters to:

(1)  Dana Forney, California Department of Public Health, Licensing and Certification, 2170 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, CA  95407  

(2)  Alex Garza, CAPT, USPHS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Division of Survey and Certification, 90 7th St, Suite 5-300 (5W), San Francisco, CA 94103-6707  (Mr. Garza's email is alex.garza@cms.hhs.gov)

(3) The Del Norte Triplicate, 312 H. St., P.O. Box 277, Crescent City, CA  95531.  Include your city and phone number at the bottom of the letter.  Phone numbers are not published but allow the paper to contact individuals submitting letters.

If you need help with letters, have information to share, or would like to write an article for this newsletter, please call me at 707-465-1126 or email to drgjduncan@yahoo.com  Join the more than 3,000 local residents who oppose Sutter's plans by signing the petition at my office on 1200 Marshall St., Crescent City.
  
Sincerely,

Greg Duncan, M.D.

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