Sutter Health is classified as a tax exempt charity, yet operates outside of public view as if it were a "for profit" corporation. Sutter is nationally recognized for its profiteering, huge increases in executive pay, and charges for care that are up to 60% over market averages. If you are tired of overpriced health care, skyrocketing health insurance premiums, and increasing out of pocket costs, please join our effort by contacting Dr. Greg Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in The Del Norte Triplicate, available online at www.triplicate.com (search "Sutter Health" for this article and related information).
"Who's going to protect the people of Del Norte County?"
Those words of Kevin
Caldwell, M.D., reverberate loudly. It was Dr. Caldwell who first dared
to stand up to the multi-billion dollar goliath Sutter Health by
opposing Sutter's decision to move hospital ownership out of Del Norte
County to the Bay Area and lower the 49-bed Acute Care hospital to a 25
bed Critical Access facility.
Dr. Caldwell was the
first local physician to see Sutter's malfeasance. As hospital chief of
staff, he identified Sutter's repeated implementation of patient care
policies without physician input. Sutter Health was telling doctors how to practice medicine, in violation of California law.
With great effort, Dr. Caldwell was able to unwind Sutter's illegal
policies. Later, after Sutter Health executives advised the local
hospital Board to dissolve itself and transfer hospital ownership to the
Bay Area, Dr. Caldwell asked the hospital board chair for a
guarantee Sutter would not close the obstetrics service. Dr. Caldwell
could not get that guarantee. He stood alone in defense of our community.
Dr. Caldwell joins
medical colleagues Mark Davis, M.D., Manfred Ritter, M.D., and Gregory
Duncan, M.D., all of whom have experienced the pain of a revengeful,
insatiable bully, Sutter Health Corporation. Sutter Health, parent of
Sutter Coast Hospital, does not play nicely in the Del Norte sandbox.
Do you recall hospital
CEO Mitch Hanna's announcement this year that Sutter had suspended its
application for Critical Access designation? Not true. According
to a letter sent to me by Dana Forney, regional manager of the
California Department of Public Health, as of April 3, no changes to
Sutter Coast's Critical Access application have been reported to CDPH. Was Mr. Hanna's big announcement just more public relations designed to quiet the growing concern with Sutter's decisions?
Manfred Ritter, M.D., FACS, a superb surgeon who was recruited to Sutter
in 2010, saw the writing on the wall and has taken his skills to
Seaside, Ore. His recruitment was initiated and endorsed by Sutter
Pacific Medical Foundation. After Dr. Ritter opposed Sutter Health
corporate policy, his contract came up for renewal - with Sutter
slashing his income guarantee by 50 percent. Sutter sent a clear message
to a medical professional who had zero complaints levied against him
and a rating of "superior" from over 98 percent of his patients.
Likewise, Dr. Davis
suddenly finds his 22-year urology practice in Del Norte County in
peril. Sutter Health has recently hired another urologist, whose income
will be subsidized with Sutter's tax-exempt war chest, to compete with
Dr. Davis. One might say, "What's the matter with a little friendly
competition? That's good for the economy." To the contrary - the
now-famous Camden Report, commissioned by Sutter, identified numerous
health care needs, including cardiology, nephrology, oncology and mental
health. Likewise, Sutter's Community Health Needs Assessment identified
many unmet health care needs in our county. But neither study
identified a need for a second urologist. Other than driving Dr. Davis
out of town on a rail, what could be the reason Sutter Health has hired
Dr. Greg Duncan's
experience follows the pattern. After he opposed Sutter's plans to
downgrade the hospital, Dr. Duncan found himself the subject of multiple
investigations by Sutter Health and Sutter Coast Hospital. Dr. Duncan
was forced to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours to defend
himself from Sutter's baseless allegations. In the end, it was
Sutter who was cited for misbehavior by the Joint Commission (which
evaluates hospitals nationwide) and the California Department of Public
Health (which regulates hospitals in California).
Exclusive Provider Organization was rolled out this past winter, none of
the local independent doctors were invited into the network. CEO Hanna
said they are part of the Sutter network, yet to date, Sutter has failed
to send local doctors the appropriate paperwork to join, and those
doctors are not part of the Sutter network. Drs. Caldwell, Davis, Ritter
and Duncan each share a public opposition to Sutter Health's quest to
lower hospital status and move all decision-making out of Del Norte
I would think a
nonprofit "charity" would be obligated to maintain the very highest
level of medical services. Sutter does not play nicely in the sandbox.
It should come as no surprise that local doctors who have worked in our
community for decades now find themselves with a fistful of sand
granules tossed in their eyes.
Roger Gitlin is District 1 Del Norte County Supervisor.
How You Can Help If
you support expanded, affordable healthcare in our region, please join
the thousands of citizens who have signed the petition opposing Sutter's
plans, available at my office on 1200 Marshall St., Crescent City, CA
95531 or reply to this email with your thoughts. Thank you all for your help and support!
Greg Gregory J. Duncan, M.D. Diplomate, American Board of Orthopedic Surgery