Emily Jo Cureton, The Triplicate

No action taken yeton downsizing move

The Sutter Coast Hospital Board of Directors met Thursday night, days after local governments fired off a letter asking the hospital's locally-based governing authority to take back a November decision that has turned longtime doctors into activists, retirees into protesters and staunch political rivals into people momentarily on the same page about possible hospital "regionalization."

"Anything short of revisiting your vote will be interpreted as ambivalance towards your community's best interest," the city-county letter reads. It also asks the hospital Board members, mostly local volunteers appointed by Sutter Health, to "analyze the potential for alternative management options for our hospital," signed sincerely by the mayor of Crescent City and chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.

These requests were not on the agenda at Thursday's meeting of the hospital board, according to longtime chairman Andy Ringgold.

"I'm sure it will be discussed at the next board meeting," Ringgold said by telephone Friday.

Dr. Greg Duncan is the hospital's chief of staff and on the Board of Directors.

He was asked to leave the room Thursday before the hospital Board convened an executive session, he said by telephone Friday.

"I've done my best to try to convince the Board to revisit this issue," said Duncan.

In July he began sending out regular email updates on hospital governance, making a case that regionalization will lead to reduced access and lower quality care in Del Norte and that it was undertaken without an open discussion of the implications. There's close to 800 people on his mailing list today.

All the meetings, agendas and minutes for hospital Board meetings are kept confidential. All the Board members signed confidentiality agreements. This is the case for all affiliates of Sutter Health, a non-profit public benefit corporation.

Duncan has said that corporate consolidation is tied to changing the status of the hospital to "critical access," which would reduce available bed space in order to maximize federal funding for Medicare patient services.

"We made absolutely no decisions about critical access," Ringgold said, "There's an analysis under way and the board has yet to review it, yet to see it actually."

A temporary restraining order against implementing regionalization is in effect at petition of the Del Norte County Health Care District, until a hearing Oct.3.

Feeling lost? Search triplicate.com for "regionalization."

Reach Emily Jo Cureton at ecureton@triplicate.com.