Monday, January 4, 2016

WHAT IS THE DEL NORTE HEALTHCARE DISTRICT AND HOW CAN YOU HELP IMPROVE LOCAL HEALTHCARE?


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. 

Roxie Hazard, CRT
Crescent City, CA
 

1 comment:

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