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Del Norte County concerned about possible Sutter Coast Hospital downsize

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CRESCENT CITY - Sutter Coast Hospital is working with the state to change its hospital status and it’s causing some tension in the community. The hospital is currently an acute care hospital offering 49 beds but it is looking to downsize to a critical access hospital offering 25 beds.

For Sutter Coast, changing its status to critical access is a wise investment. The change would increase Medicare reimbursements substantially, offering more money for physician recruitment and other needs.

“Medicare is saying, ‘we know you’re in this critical area that really needs health care and you’re the only provider, so we’re going to give you 100% of your expenses’,” Rose Corcoran, Chief Nurse Exec at Sutter Coast, said.

But Del Norte residents are worried that fewer beds will mean less access to health care and that the increased revenue won’t actually stay in their community but go to Sutter Health and it’s executives.

“Sutter’s using what is a good program, it was designed to subsidize tiny hospitals, in a way that subsidizes Sutter Health. They are downsizing to fit the program,” Doctor Greg Duncan, Sutter Coast’s Chief of Surgery, said.

Dr. Duncan, who works for Sutter but opposes the change, says the critical access model is good, but for hospitals smaller than Crescent City’s 49-bed unit. Sutter says they don’t utilize their full capacity on a regular basis.

“We’ve looked at how many times we’ve gone past 25 in the last year. There’s been about 8 times so far this year we popped up over 25. That would be the 8-10 days a year where we might hold somebody longer in the ER or transfer them,” Corcoran said.

But the community isn’t convinced. They are taking action by gathering nearly 4,000 signatures against the status change as well as considering imminent domain meaning the health care district would take control of the hospital.   

“There are two futures of health care in the north coast at stake here. One is expansion and one is decline and we’re for expansion,” Dr. Duncan said.

And as the community continues its efforts, Sutter Coast presses forward for the change.

“I think there’s a real concern by the community that they will have less health care or less access to health care and we really are going to keep it the same,” Corcoran said.

And if you are interested in signing that petition against Sutter or just want more information, visit crescentcityhospital.blogspot.com or email Dr. Duncan at drgjduncan@yahoo.com