Emily Jo Cureton, The Triplicate

"It's our hospital," one protestor said.

Another person echoed the sentiment. Then another. And then another. Another still...

About 50 people who rallied on Washington Boulevard on Thursday afternoon seemed to be on the same page about whose hospital stood behind them.

The crowd of mostly senior citizens came to demonstrate against a proposed transfer of ownership of Sutter Coast Hospital, which has been affiliated with a private non-profit public benefit corporation named Sutter Health since 1986, when the county-owned facility saw its last patient.

"We literally came here for the climate and the hospital," said Alfred Lutz, holding another "our hospital" sign in one hand, a cane in the other.

In 2010, 82 percent of patient days at Sutter Coast were filled by people insured through Medicare or Medical, federal and state insurance programs, respectively.

Meanwhile, 83 percent of payments came from private insurers and the hospital reported profitable operating margins.

In 2008, Sutter Health began restructuring the governance of all its independent affiliates. Instead of each hospital having its own board of directors with a majority of local residents, groups of hospitals are overseen on a regional level.

Last year plans moved forward to merge Crescent City with a region of five hospitals closer to San Francisco, without the local organizations and governments hearing about it first.

Then some local doctors sounded an alarm, saying the business plan undermines good medicine and fair practices. Drs. Greg Duncan and Mark Davis strode through the crowd Thursday in white lab coats, asking people to move the rally over to the Oceanfront Lodge on Front and A Streets, where Sutter Health executives were expected to meet with the hospital's current Board of Directors and its medical staff.

All the hospital's board meetings are closed to the public.

At the rally, a passing driver pulled over to ask what all the fuss was about.

"They're trying to take control of our hospital in San Francisco," someone hollered back, approaching the rolled down window to say more.

Learn more about this issue by searching triplicate.com for "regionalization."

Reach Emily Jo Cureton at ecureton@triplicate.com.