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
The Root of the Hospital Problem: A
Sutter Coast Hospital Board Mired in Secrecy
Duncan, M.D., with original email by Larry Eninger, M.D.
contains an internal hospital email written by my colleague Dr. Larry
Eninger, providing a "behind the scenes" look at the
conflict between our community and the Sutter Health appointees on
our local hospital Board. Dr. Eninger served on the Sutter
Coast Hospital Conflict Resolution Committee, formed when hospital
physicians opposed the Board's secret vote to transfer hospital
ownership out of our community. Local readers already
know Dr. Eninger as a caring doctor with a wonderful staff in Crescent
City and Brookings. Less well known is his resume--retired Navy
captain and flight surgeon, former Sutter Coast Chief of Staff and
Director, and former staff physician at the Scripps clinic in La
Jolla, California. Dr. Eninger's experience in multiple
practice settings was a great asset to the committee. For three
years, he met with physicians and hospital Board members, studied the
hospital bylaws changes written by a Sutter Health attorney in 2011,
and offered his advice to resolve the Sutter conflict.
This week, Dr.
Eninger resigned from the Conflict Resolution Committee. His
resignation email , sent to all members of the Sutter Coast
Conflict Resolution Committee, follows:
"Kevin" refers to Dr. Kevin Caldwell, who was advised by a
hospital Board member that Dr. Caldwell could not release any
committee information to anyone)
"Kevin, you don't need anybody's permission to share
Anyone who thinks their words/actions should be kept
secret should probably reconsider those words/actions. I will
certainly be perfectly candid if anyone cares enough to ask me what
has transpired in our committee."
"I have been tight-lipped, but I fully understand
your frustration. All the secrecy is counterproductive.
Do some think they need to make decisions for the community without
the community's knowledge because they are so much smarter than the
lowly people who just wouldn't be able to understand their
wisdom? Or maybe they are ashamed of their actions and know
that anyone with knowledge will recognize that those actions are
"I've tried for years to be understanding, but it's
time to call a spade a spade. It's convenient and comfortable
to criticize Sutter Health, the big nebulous corporation in Sacramento,
rather than our friends and neighbors. But Sutter Health is not
primarily responsible for the decline of Sutter Coast Hospital over
the past few years. Sure, they could have been more open and
spoon-fed us with the negative aspects of their plans, but why should
they? They are a corporation whose Board is responsible for the
success of that corporation. Their primary concern is not
Sutter Coast Hospital or our community. That responsibility
belongs to our local Sutter Coast Hospital Board."
"In defense of our Board, it is a tough job.
Nonetheless, it is our Board's responsibility to protect the
interests of Sutter Coast Hospital, and by virtue of the hospital's
charter, the local community. Whether by ego, ignorance, ineptness,
laziness, cowardice or combination thereof, our local Board has
failed miserably in that responsibility."
"Some board members still believe that Sutter Coast
Hospital is owned by Sutter Health. They either don't
understand their responsibility as Trustees of Sutter Coast Hospital
or they choose to ignore it. They weakened their powers, and
thus their ability to meet their responsibilities, by accepting the
Bylaws changes of 2011; they tried to give them away completely by
voting for regionalization; and they voted for Critical Access, a
designation that burdens our community. Then when confronted
with opposition they chose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars
on a carefully-orchestrated, dependent "study" carefully
constructed & interpreted in the then-CEO's office to support
their position before hunkering down behind a wall of secrecy.
They chose to ignore the physicians and community with whom they
clearly (should) have common goals and instead listen to the lawyers
of Sutter Health, a corporation whose goals are, although generally
aligned with, not the same as those of Sutter Coast Hospital."
"Our Sutter Coast Hospital Board is at odds with our
community - fighting us on behalf of Sutter Health. Until the
majority of our Board is once-again composed of community-focused
individuals who are capable of independent thought, our efforts on
the Conflict Resolution Committee are a waste of time. I
am truly sorry about the events of the past 4-5 years for all of
us. However, 4 years is enough of rehashing the facts and
having them repeatedly ignored. I had hoped to contribute to
resolution of our conflict, but I hereby admit my failure to
meaningfully do so and submit my resignation from this
How Can You
If you support
the goal of affordable, accessible healthcare, please join the more
than 4,000 local residents who have signed the petition at my office
on 1200 Marshall St., opposing Sutter Health's corporate plans; write
a letter to the Del Norte Triplicate (P.O. Box 277, Crescent City, CA
95531) and join the statewide effort to compel Sutter Health to
open its hidden books and records by asking Attorney General Kamala
Harris to investigate Sutter Health's conduct and whether Sutter
deserves a tax exemption:
by Roxie Hazard, Certified Radiologic Technologist
Here is a brief history on California's Healthcare Districts,
and why our local Healthcare District is so important to our community:
In order to address healthcare shortages in rural areas, the
California legislature approved the formation of local Hospital
Districts, now called "Healthcare Districts." By law, Healthcare
Districts have specified statutory rights, including the right of
eminent domain, in order to provide appropriate healthcare for
communities. The Del Norte Healthcare District is governed by five
elected county residents who, among other contributions, built the Del
Norte Community Health Center, the largest clinic in Del Norte County,
providing primary care, dentistry, and mental health services.
Four years ago, as part of Sutter Health's statewide hospital
merger effort, the Sutter Coast Hospital Board voted (over the
objection of Chief of Staff Dr. Kevin Caldwell) to dissolve itself and
transfer ownership of Sutter Coast to a San Francisco based,
multi-hospital corporation, entirely controlled by Sutter Health. Sutter
excluded the hospital physicians, the Del Norte Healthcare District,
and our community from its decision to transfer ownership of Sutter
Coast Hospital out of Del Norte County. In spite of widespread public
concern, the Sutter Coast Board Chair refused to reconsider the Board's
decision, stating, "the train has left the station."
Two years ago, the Sutter Coast Board voted (over the
objection of Chief of Staff Dr. Greg Duncan) to implement "Critical
Access" status, which, according to hospital CEO Mitch Hanna, would
allow Sutter Coast to collect an additional $5 million a year from
Medicare. However, Critical Access also required Sutter Coast to close
half of its beds, and would greatly increase out of pocket costs to
local Medicare patients. Whenever Sutter Coast was "full" under the 25
bed cap imposed by Critical Access, patients would be shipped to outside
hospitals, at their expense.
In response to Sutter Coast's decisions, the Del Norte
Healthcare District led an effort to stop Sutter Health's plans to take
hospital ownership and to downsize Sutter Coast to a Critical Access
facility. Now, Sutter Coast states it has ended its effort to transfer
hospital ownership out of Del Norte County, and has tabled its plans to
downsize to Critical Access.
The problem is, the Sutter Coast Board has not made any
binding promises--they have not withdrawn their Critical Access
application and have not rescinded their vote to transfer hospital
ownership out of our county, despite being asked to do so by the
hospital physicians. The Sutter Coast Board has also refused to release
their meeting records and financial data, and they continue to hold
meetings closed to the public.
Q. How can we bring better healthcare to our community?
A. By supporting our locally elected Del Norte Healthcare District Board.
Over 4,000 area residents have signed the petition at Dr.
Duncan's office, opposing Sutter's corporate plans for Del Norte County.
Please stop by his office on 1200 Marshall St. and add your name to
this list. Our community, together with our Healthcare District, can
improve local healthcare.
Our Healthcare District generally meets at 6:30 p.m. on the 4th Tuesday of each month, but with the holidays, the next meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 5th, 2016, at 6:30 p. m. Meetings
are open to the public, and are held at the Wellness Center, 550
Washington Blvd, Crescent City, CA 95531. The phone number is: (707) 464-9494, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 12 noon.
Please join me on Jan. 5, and the fourth Tuesday of each month, and bring your ideas and questions. Together, we can make better healthcare in our region a reality.