Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Latest news on Sutter Health's plans for our region

Guest Editorial by former Sutter hospital employee
September 24, 2014 
Latest news on Sutter Health's closed door decisions
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

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.  

Greg Duncan

Gregory J. Duncan, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Orthopedic Surgery

Please post this newsletter on social media, and forward to interested friends. Prior newsletters available at:
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.

Marcy Bohannon
Crescent City

Gregory J. Duncan, M.D. | | | 1200 Marshall St.
Crescent City, CA 95531

Copyright © 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

California Medical Association and Medical Society Position Statement on Sutter Health's plans for hospital care in Del Norte County

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Today's newsletter regarding the future of healthcare on California's north coast is provided by the California Medical Association (CMA) and the Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society, with an introduction by Mark H. Davis, a urologist in Crescent City.  

The CMA joins local city and county opposition to Sutter Health's plans to downsize and transfer ownership of locally owned Sutter Coast Hospital to Sutter's Regional Corporation in San Francisco.  Transfer of community owned hospitals to Sutter's Regional corporations is a statewide effort known as "Regionalization"--a fundamental shift from community based hospitals to regionally owned hospital groups.  Future newsletters will show the link between Regionalization and an increase in Sutter executive salaries and your healthcare costs. 

Introduction by Mark H. Davis, M.D.

As Chairman of the Del Norte District of the Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Society, past Trustee of the California Medical Association, and the local urologist in Crescent City for the past 21 years, it is my responsibility to share with you the Medical Society/CMA policy statement on Sutter Health's activities in our community.

This statement discusses decisions by Sutter Health and the Board of Sutter Coast Hospital ("SCH") to convert SCH to a Critical Access facility, to transfer ownership of SCH out of our community and into a Sutter controlled corporation in San Francisco, and to end local authority over hospital governance, including patient care policies and physician credentialing.

Please contact me with any comments or ideas on how we can expand and improve access to affordable healthcare.

Mark H. Davis, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Urology

Public Statement by the California Medical Association and Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Society
P.O. BOX 6457
(707) 442-2367 * FAX (707) 442-8134
E-mail: hancms@sbcglobalmet *

May 21, 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

Since its founding in 1886, the Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society has been a voice for physicians and their patients in the rural communities of northwest California. The medical society is aware of on-going controversial efforts by Sutter Health Corporation to restructure the governance of Sutter Coast Hospital and to convert it to a critical access hospital. Serious concerns have been raised should Sutter Health follow through with its plans.

The board of Sutter Coast Hospital has voted to accept a "regionalization" plan imposed by Sutter Health through which the hospital would fully merge into the Sutter Health West Bay Region. The local hospital board would cede all governing authority over Sutter Coast to a regional board that sits roughly 350 miles away in San Francisco and oversees approximately 14 other health care facilities, all in the Bay Area. Physicians, civic leaders and local citizens have expressed opposition to "regionalization" and feel the local hospital board made its decision without adequate input from Sutter Coast's medical staff and community stakeholders. It is also
believed that the local hospital board and other proponents of regionalization do not fully understand or appreciate the consequences of giving up responsibility to oversee the hospital and the importance of local control over governance issues that affect the medical staff, such as oversight authority on peer review, privileging and medical staff bylaws.

Independent review of the regionalization plan has also raised red flags. An attorney retained by the medical staff at Sutter Coast determined that regionalization would improperly usurp the rights and duties of the medical staff and interfere with its right of self-governance. Similarly, an attorney with the California Medical Association expressed the opinion that the plan to regionalize Sutter Coast Hospital has serious potential to upset the proper balance between the medical staff and the hospital governing board.

Strong local opposition forced Sutter Health to put its restructuring plans on hold, but the hospital corporation continues to push for final implementation of its regionalization plan.

Sutter Health's efforts to restructure Sutter Coast also has triggered a lawsuit by Beverly Hussey, whose late husband donated the land on which the hospital sits to the county in 1988, for use as an acute care hospital. Mrs. Hussey's lawsuit claims that Sutter Health's desire to convert Sutter Coast to a critical access hospital violates the conditions of her husband's gift and would have a negative impact on the availability and accessibility of medical care at the hospital.

The county medical society, along with the California Medical Association backed by California law, strongly believes that governance over Sutter Coast must prioritize local medical staff self-governance and ensure adequate access to the highest possible level of medical care. The citizens of Del Norte County deserve nothing less. Sutter Health therefore must respect and fully address the serious concerns that have been raised by local physicians and citizens, who are legitimately questioning the wisdom and legality of Sutter Health's efforts to regionalize Sutter Coast and turn it into a critical access hospital.


John Mastroni, M.D.                                                                John Nelson, M.D.
President                                                                                President-elect

Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society

We appreciate the support of more than 3,000 local residents who have signed a petition opposing Sutter's plans for our region.  If you would like to add your name, receive future newsletters, or learn more, please stop by my office at 1200 Marshall St., Crescent City, or email me at

Your comments on how to improve and expand our region's healthcare are also appreciated.

Greg Duncan

Gregory J. Duncan, M.D.

Gregory J. Duncan, M.D. | | | 1200 Marshall St.
Crescent City, CA 95531

Copyright © 2014. All Rights Reserved.