Sutter representatives are seeking participants for a new advisory council focusing on the experience of patients and their families at the hospital.

Members of the new Patient Family Advisory Council will work with managers overseeing the hospital’s various departments including intensive care, med-surge, lab and X-ray, said Rose Corcoran, Sutter Coast Hospital’s chief nurse executive. The council would let them know what is working and what needs to be improved and would help develop plans to improve care, she said.

Although the Patient Family Advisory Council wouldn’t report directly to the Sutter Coast Hospital board of directors, the hospital’s governing body would hear of plans to improve care when they discuss patient satisfaction, Corcoran said.

Ideal candidates will have been a Sutter Coast Hospital patient within the last five years, according to a Sutter Health press release. Patient caregivers are also encouraged to participate, according to the press release.

“Ideally we’d like to have about five different members on the committee,” Corcoran said. “(This includes) former patients and families and then we’ll have some staff members on the committee as well. It would probably be nurse managers as well as managers over ancillary services.”

Corcoran said she hopes to have the Patient Family Advisory Council’s members selected in the next 30 to 60 days.

The local Patient Family Advisory Council is the latest to be formed in the Sutter Health system, according to Roberta Mori, director for patient family engagement for Sutter’s Office of Patient Experience. The Sacramento-based health care network partnered with the Hospital Quality Institute in 2016 to increase the number of patient advisory councils at its hospitals and in its other health care settings, Mori said.

Mori said she and her colleague, Project Coordinator Morgan Horwood help each council “develop a role and responsibilities.”

“We would want to get comments and feedback from all of our patients across the system,” Mori said. “We’re doing this as a standard so it makes it easy for our affiliates or health care settings to bring on patient family advisors and lift the voice of the community up for specific projects for the entire system.”

Each patient family advisory council focuses on different things, according to Mori. At Sutter Amador Hospital, members of its patient family advisory council are exploring ways to “make the emergency department experience go smoother,” Mori said. The patient family advisory council at Sutter’s Roseville facility meets on a monthly basis for more than two hours, she said.

There are also patient family advisory councils that focus on Sutter’s hospice facilities, interviewing hospice staff, patients and their families, Mori said.

News of the formation of Sutter Coast Hospital’s Patient Family Advisory Council and the hospital’s promise to “improve and promote patient-centered care” received a mixed response from members of the Del Norte County Healthcare District board.

Dr.Greg" target="_blank">class="s1">Dr.Greg Duncan, who was elected to the healthcare district board in 2016, noted that thousands in the community have voiced their concerns about Sutter Coast Hospital, Duncan. He said he collected 5,000 signatures on a petition in 2012 opposing Sutter Health’s plans to dissolve the local hospital board of directors and have Sutter Coast be governed by a regional board in Sacramento.

Community opposition intensified when Sutter Health decided to “downsize” the hospital to critical access, Duncan said.

“It was because of community input that we were able to stop all those decisions that Sutter Health had made for our community,” he said.

According to Duncan, the community is currently concerned about the high charges for care at Sutter Coast Hospital; the out-of-network charges from Envision Healthcare, which staffs the hospital’s emergency department; and the quality of care at Sutter Coast Hospital. Duncan referred to the healthcare district’s meeting last week where four families complained about the care they or their loved ones received at the hospital recently.

“The entity that has control over all three of those is the local members on the hospital board of directors,” Duncan said. “We’re the only locally governing hospital in the entire Sutter system. I’m not objecting to what (Sutter) is doing, I would want to be more directly involved if I were on the governing body.”

His colleague Dr. Kevin Caldwell said he had hoped Sutter Coast Hospital’s Patient Family Advisory Council would try to address “the community outrage of some of the things happening at Sutter.”

“I guess I’m not optimistic that it’s any big improvement for our community,” Caldwell said of the advisory council.

Healthcare board member Dwayne Reichlin said any time the hospital or Sutter Health invites input from the community is a “wonderful thing.” He said he hopes a member of the Sutter Coast Hospital board of directors has a place on the advisory council.

“One of my big things is for the local Sutter board to get more involved in what happens on a day-to-day basis and I’m not convinced they do that,” Reichlin said. “Any involvement Sutter Coast is willing to give to people in the community on their day-to-day activities, I’m behind 100 percent. We’re not trying to run Sutter out of here. What we want Sutter to do is pay more attention to the local community and not so much attention on Sutter Health.”

According to Sutter Health’s press release, members of the Patient Family Advisory Council are asked to volunteer four hours per month. This includes attending meetings and “process improvement activities” throughout the hospital.

Potential council members must undergo an initial phone screening process as well as an interview. For more information, call 916-305-7704 or email patientfamilyengagement@sutterhealth.org.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.

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