Emergency health care is a vital part of our community, and Sutter Coast Hospital is committed to improving the affordability and access to quality care. After all, Sutter Coast Hospital has a long-standing history of caring for the health and well-being of our region.
Sutter Coast shares concern regarding the out-of-network cost of emergency physician care. I have personally been in close contact with leadership at Envision (our current provider) to ask them to accept more local insurers. We have given Envision until the end of the year to find a solution and continue to explore other alternatives should that become necessary.
The challenge of finding reliable and affordable emergency physician coverage with organizations that have contracts with diverse health insurance companies is not unique to Sutter Coast. Hospitals throughout the country face similar challenges, particularly those in remote urban areas where few are covered by commercial insurance and a high percentage are covered by state-sponsored Medi-Cal, which has among the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation.
We chose Envision as our provider based on the company’s ability to fully staff our Emergency Department with qualified physicians. Besides being a large national provider and our local provider here in Crescent City, Envision has contracts in emergency departments throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon, including Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata, St. Joseph Health in Eureka and Curry Medical Center in Gold Beach.
Providing quality health care in remote rural settings will always have its challenges but Sutter Coast remains committed to addressing those challenges and has a 30-year track record of doing so. We welcome constructive scrutiny of our efforts but hope those critical also recognize the significant progress and investments made to improve the quality and access to care in our community, and the tremendous good work our qualified and compassionate staff provide patients every day.
We have always looked for opportunities to enhance care for our community. Currently, we are partnering with the Del Norte County Mental Health Department to bring a crisis stabilization unit to the county that will help address the lack of mental health services in our community. Additionally, Sutter Coast Hospital is among the first hospitals in the Sutter Health system that will provide our patients with access to psychiatric consultative services through a telepsychiatry program. We look forward to exploring opportunities where we can further collaborate with community leaders to enhance health care services and complete projects that have a lasting impact on the health of our community.
I am also personally committed to enhancing the specialized services that are available by recruiting physicians and adding the latest technology to Sutter Coast facilities. In the past year, we added a cardiologist, oncologist and OB-GYN. We installed 3D mammography, the latest in breast cancer detection, to our imaging center in Brookings/Harbor and our new infusion center and the new dialysis center are set to open by the end of the year, allowing us to provide highly advanced care locally.
We also expanded the hours of our walk-in care center and this month welcome Dr. George Meyer a gastroenterologist. We continue our recruitment efforts to bring specialties to the region, including pediatrics, orthopedics, internal and family medicine.
For patients who have difficulty paying their health care bills, Sutter Health has a very generous Charity Care policy. In 2016 alone, Sutter Coast Hospital provided $3 million in free or discounted care to patients who couldn’t afford to pay.
We also post in our admissions office a listing of the 60 most common procedures and charges for which patients receive care at Sutter Coast Hospital so patients have an understanding of the cost of care.
Simultaneously, we continue our work to improve the patient experience. We are making process improvements to our Emergency Department and are currently recruiting members for a patient family advisory council. The council will be made up of former patients and caregivers who work in partnership with hospital staff to find ways to improve and promote patient-centered care.
As always, I always want to hear directly from our patients on how we can improve the care that you receive at the hospital and care centers in the community. I encourage you to reach out to me at 707-464-8880 or firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, comments and concerns.
Mitch Hanna is chief executive officer for Sutter Coast Hospital.