Hospital Board of Directors Takes Action to Ensure Long-Term Viability of Sutter Coast Hospital and to Reaffirm Continued Presence of Local Board
On Thursday night, the Sutter Coast Hospital board of directors took thoughtful, decisive action designed to help ensure that Sutter Coast is financially viable and able to meet the health care needs of our community now and in the future.
The board was compelled to act in response to a variety of challenges impacting health care and rural hospitals nationwide. Hospitals throughout the country are seeing a drop in the number inpatients needing services, in part because technology has allowed for more and more procedures to be done outside of hospitals. In addition, government reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medi-Cal continue to decline.
Among the specific challenges facing Sutter Coast include:
- A decline in patients from an average of 25 per day in 2008 to just 19 in 2012 and holding steady to an average of 20 per day this year.
- 70 percent of our patients are insured by Medicare or Medi-Cal, which do not cover the full cost of care. The number of patients 65 and older in our community is projected to grow 12.5 percent through 2018.
“Sutter Coast faces these challenges in a somewhat unique environment where our opportunities to increase revenues are limited because of our rural location and our demographics,” said Ken Hall, Sutter Coast Hospital board chair.
Hall added, “Working together these past few months, we have been able to achieve some significant operational efficiencies and savings, but Sutter Coast is still projected to operate at a loss of nearly $7 million this year, which includes the AB1383 funding.”
To help identify options to address these challenge, the board commissioned a study by the Camden Group. A 15-person steering committee, comprised of community members, also generously volunteered a good portion of their time to review, interpret and evaluate findings, and a survey was sent to the general public.
After evaluating all available data and considering feedback from the steering committee, the medical community and the public, the board embraced a multi-pronged turnaround plan that includes:
- Continued enhancements to already high-quality care
- Aggressive physician recruitment to retain and attract top talent
- Increased efficiencies of hospital operations and cost reductions
- Application for critical access designation which allows for increased reimbursement for care of Medicare patients. More than 65 percent of rural hospitals across the country are already classified as critical access.
- Active communication with the community, including ongoing steering committee involvement.
The board also voted in support of a resolution to preserve the local Sutter Coast Hospital board of directors for the foreseeable future.
“We know the community has a lot of questions and concerns, and we concluded that, for the time being, the continuity of this local board is important,” Hall said. “We are pleased that Sutter Health recognizes our unique circumstances and supports our request for continued local governance for the foreseeable future.”
“We all share the same goal of making sure Sutter Coast is financially viable and able to meet the health care needs of our community, now and in the future,” Hall continued. “We believe the steps we are taking will help us achieve this goal. We look forward to a strong partnership within the community and between the medical staff and the hospital moving forward.”