Sutter Coast plans to hire firm to help analyze the options
County supervisors today will hear from Sutter Coast Hospital's chief of medical staff and discuss participating in a study on the hospital's future.
Sutter Coast representatives asked a group of community members, including a local businessman and a Curry County commissioner, to participate in the study, according to Dr. Gregory Duncan, the chief of medical staff. Five people declined due to concerns that the study will be biased, he said.
The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors will discuss asking District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure to participate in this study, according to the meeting agenda.
Duncan has emerged as a vocal opponent of the hospital's attempted "regionalization," which would involve replacing its local Board of Directors with a regional one. His claim that this could lead to downsizing the hospital has prompted a public outcry against the move.
In a letter to the supervisors, Duncan said the hospital's Board of Directors initially approved a collaboratively funded study. But now that the outside source withdrew its funding, Sutter is currently the only funding source, he said.
"Sutter wants this study to provide for their long-term plans for the hospital," Duncan said.
Sutter officials have talked with several national firms that specialize in rural health and California law to conduct this study, said Sutter Coast spokeswoman Beth Liles. After listening to four presentations, a group of community members will decide which firm should conduct the study.
Some community members chose not to participate because they were concerned that the study would be biased, Liles said. But others declined to participate due to other time commitments, she said.
"We're saying you come and pick the firm and that firm will do the study as guided by a very general request for proposals," Liles said. "We were asked to get outside community members that are not Sutter-affiliated to hire a firm that's not Sutter affiliated to do a study that's not Sutter affiliated. (If) the bias is that we're paying for it, well, someone has to pay for it or the firm's not going to do it."
According to a recent hospital newsletter, the firm that conducts the study will be asked to analyze the viability, advantages and disadvantages of a number of strategic options, including having Sutter Coast maintain its current governance structure. Other options include having the hospital maintain its current structure, but pursue other business strategies such as reconfiguring services and pursuing critical access hospital designation, which would involve downsizing.
The firm will be asked to base its analysis on the hospital's ability to meet current and future community health care needs, as well as Sutter Coast's finances and operations. The firm's representatives will then present the outcome of the study to the hospital Board of Directors and will participate in an open presentation to the community, according to the newsletter.
District 3 Supervisor Mike Sullivan said hospital representatives had initially asked him to participate in the study. He said he decided to bring the issue before the entire Board of Supervisors, which will likely discuss it after hearing a presentation by Duncan.
"I thought there had to be more consensus from the Board," Sullivan said. "Because (Sutter Coast)is obviously using the supervisor position as one of the people to validate whatever study that's being done."
McClure is now being considered as the supervisor who might participate in the study because of her interest in the issue, Sullivan said, adding the entire board will choose whether it will participate.
The Board of Supervisors meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Flynn Administrative Center at 981 H St. in Crescent City. Meeting agendas are available at www.co.del-norte.ca.us. Meetings are streamed live at media.co.del-norte.ca.us.
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