By Clark Moore

Though I have been involved in our local healthcare system at some level since 1972, in many ways our current system is not recognizable to me.

My learning curve since becoming a Sutter Coast board member a year ago has been steep and rapid. All questions, even the most uncomfortable, were answered. I have focused on what level of services we have, the cost of those services, the quality of those services, and a comparison of those services in similar communities nationwide.

On the national level:

All agree the cost of health care is too high.

Health care is tightly regulated; California is more regulated than most states.

Health care systems are getting larger.

Hospitals (health care systems) have responsibilities to their patients far beyond their own facilities or services they provide.

Managed care plans are becoming more dominant: per month/per member payment; most but not all health care services covered.

On the Sutter Health level:

A commitment to quality and equity in healthcare.

Many “management types” have had direct, personal experience with health care (President/CEO Sarah Krevans has served as a caregiver in the mental health field), all have a commitment to quality patient care.

A commitment to offer PPO, Medicare Advantage type insurance options to all affiliates.

Executive compensation is determined by comparative analysis and is regulated by the IRS; competitive, yes, excessive, no.

On the local level:

LVN to RN program: Through partnerships with College of the Redwoods, Pelican Bay State Prison and Sutter Coast we anticipate a 2019 commencement date.

Crisis Stabilization Unit: DN County DHHS/Mental Health Branch and Sutter thoroughly examined the viability of a CSU on the Sutter Coast campus; yearly costs and long-term financial commitments for the County made the CSU unfeasible.

Infusion Center.

Acute Rehabilitation Unit.

Patient Family Advisory Council.

24/7 OB coverage; many rural communities do not offer this necessary service.

Physician Recruitment: Sutter Coast, DN Community Health Center (Wellness Center), PBSP, United Indian Health Services, and others are all active players. Costs are high, competition is fierce and nationwide. Specialists are required to perform most procedures that in the past were done by general practitioners. Call-time for 24/7 coverage at the hospital is a must for some of the specialties (pediatrics, O/B, orthopedics, general surgery) and must be paid for by the hospital, not only for time served but also transportation in/out of the area, and frequently, housing.

Sutter continues to bring us high quality, fully qualified practitioners. We are fortunate to have them here

Physician Retention: Retention is primarily the responsibility of the community. Practitioners and their families must feel welcome, wanted and respected by the community they serve if we expect them to stay .

Though many things have changed in health care, the commitment, respect, professionalism, skill, caring shown by those at the bedside has not. It is difficult, rewarding work; few can do it. My respect, gratitude and thanks to all of you for what you do for us.

To have a viable, sustainable health care system here, we must, as a community, determine an appropriate service level. Our challenge is to convene, confer, and collaborate in a neutral, evidence-based manner that is as inclusive and transparent as possible. The upcoming Healthcare Summit/Forum could be such a venue.

To your health.

Clarke Moore, a former hospital administrator, served more than 20 years as a member of the Del Norte Healthcare District board. He now serves as a member of the Sutter Coast Hospital Board of Trustees.