Prelminary approval given for new Sutter Hospital

July 5, 2010 11:30:21 PM PDT
The Sonoma County Department Health Services is looking favorably on Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa's proposed $284 million, 82-bed, 116-patient hospital near the Wells Fargo Center for the arts north of Santa Rosa.

In a 58-page report, the Department of Health Services concluded the business plan for new hospital complies with a 1996 Health Care Access Agreement, HCAA, that requires Sutter Health to treat people enrolled in government-funded programs including Medicare, Medical and the County Medical Services Program that serves low-income, childless adults.

The report also concludes Sutter's business plan would provide equal or better quality of services, reduce the cost of health care services and would meet other requirements of the Health Care Access Agreement.

Sutter assumed responsibility for operating the county's Community Hospital in 1996. State law requires the facility on Chanate Road in Santa Rosa be seismically retrofitted, replaced or closed by Dec. 14, 2014.

Sutter decided to build a new hospital. Construction must start by Dec. 31, 2010 or it must close the hospital by state law.

County health officials said the proposed new hospital would provide equal or better care than the existing hospital, reduce the risk of hospital infections by having single occupancy rooms for adults and contain new equipment and monitoring systems that would improve care.

"It would be built to high energy efficiency standards and be designed to use staff more efficiently than the current antiquated building," health officials said in the report.

The report also said the new hospital's location off U.S. Highway 101 would provide equal or better access than the Chanate facility.

"Additionally, Sutter would maintain other policies and programs that contribute to access for low-income patients including its contracts with government programs, its charity care commitment of a minimum of 3 percent of net operating revenues, its sponsorship of the Family Medicine Residency program, its support of outpatient services and its support for culturally competent services," the report states.

The report notes the HCAA does not require Sutter to provide "surge capacity" for a disaster or epidemic.

"It appears that the recommended surge capacity will exist countywide regardless of how many beds Sutter constructs. The proposed hospital would have 19 fewer beds than the current Chanate facility's licensed capacity. However, the fall of 2010, Kaiser will open 56 new adult acute beds more than offsetting any Sutter reduction," the report notes.

In August, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide whether to certify the project's environmental impact report, the new hospital's business plan and the use permit to construct the new hospital and medical office buildings.


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