Del Norte Tea Party Patriots

Liberty in the Northwest

24 July

Doctors Letter to the Editor



Dear Local Residents:

As an isolated community, we depend on our local hospital for many urgent medical needs. Did you know our access to the hospital is now at risk?

Last November, the local Board of Directors of Sutter Coast Hospital, at the request of Sutter Health Corporation, voted to dissolve itself. The oversight of medical care and hospital finances, which are now local functions, would be turned over to a Regional Board in the Bay Area, a process known as “Regionalization.” The 8-1 vote to Regionalize was made just two months after Sutter Health “offered” to Regionalize us. Chief of Staff Kevin Caldwell, M.D., the only elected member on the Board, cast the sole dissenting vote. Regionalization would end 26 years of local control of Sutter Coast Hospital.

Local physicians then held a meeting with the hospital Board of Directors to address the following concerns:

(1) The Board of Directors, against the strenuous objections of Dr. Caldwell, made a deliberate decision to exclude physicians, Sutter employees, and the community from any educational sessions prior to their decision to Regionalize.

(2) No information on Regionalization from independent sources was considered by the Board before their vote to Regionalize.

(3) The term of Board Chairman Andy Ringgold was extended by Sutter Health, in violation of our hospital bylaws, beyond his 9 year term, in order to implement Regionalization without a change in leadership.

(4) Sutter Health has refused to guarantee us any local seats on the Regional Board.

The Board of Directors has now agreed to temporarily put the Regionalization process on hold.


Sutter Health is now seriously considering converting Sutter Coast Hospital into a small “critical access” facility, which would reduce our bed count from 49 to 25. Sutter’s consideration of critical access is based on their claims of potential future financial losses. Critical access benefits the corporation financially because all hospital costs are subsidized by the federal government. Yet, Sutter Coast has been profitable for 26 consecutive years, and profits have been deposited into the “Sutter Treasury” throughout this time. In 2010, Sutter Coast reported a net profit of $5.2 million, and an additional $5.8 million was reported as “inter-company transfers” to Sutter Health.

The critical access program was originally designed for hospitals with an average of 12 or less inpatients, in order to preserve access to care in small, remote hospitals. In Del Norte county, critical access would sharply decrease access to care.

What would critical access mean to us?

Sutter Health recently implemented Regionalization and critical access at Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport, a community and a hospital similar to ours. The staff at Sutter Lakeside told us the following:

(1) Due to critical access bed limits, 44 inpatient beds were eliminated, reducing bed capacity from 69 to 25. Now, four to five patients daily are being transferred by air ambulance to other facilities. The cost of the transport is the responsibility of the patient.

(2) Cancer patients previously treated at Lakeside have been denied admission and transferred elsewhere.

(3) Patients scheduled for elective surgery have been re-scheduled, due to bed shortages.

(4) Critical access limits the average patient stay to four days.

(5) Fifty percent of the employees at Sutter Lakeside, or 300 people, were laid off.

(6) Sutter Health was the first corporation in the nation to downsize a hospital in order to qualify for critical access designation.

What does Regionalization mean to us?

It means Sutter Health could convert our hospital into a critical access facility without any local input.

For more information on this issue, to leave comments, or to join a local group opposing Sutter’s plans, please contact Dr. Duncan at his office on 1200 Marshall St., Crescent City, (707) 465-1126.


Gregory J. Duncan, M.D.

Chief of Staff

Sutter Coast Hospital

Kevin Caldwell, M.D. Larry Eninger, M.D. Anne Marie Duncan, M.D.

Mark H. Davis, M.D. David Cink, M.D. Sylvia Nash, M.D.

Donna Sund, D.O. Helmuth Vollger, M.D.

Don Micheletti, M.D.

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