What do Wineries, Hospitals, and the Discovery of Gold Have in Common?


It's that time of year again, when I pull out my creativity hat and try to earn money from Mom's work. The scholarship is pretty unimaginative, but for a hospital whose main concern should probably be its patients, I don't mind going the extra mile to add some spice to my application.

Luckily, the Indian spices were cheap this year...Bad metaphors aside, Sutter's Santa Rosa hospital announced earlier this year that it plans to close at the end of 2007 amidst claims that it had no intention of performing necessary seismic retrofitting on its main campus due to rising construction and patient care costs. Their outpatient facilities like their women's clinic, pyschiatric and family care facilities will remain, but inpatient and emergency care (including their well-renowned, high profile new heart trauma center) are shutting down.

So, basically, an average of 130 daily patients and 1,200 employees will be out of work pretty soon. Of the two other major hospitals-- Kaiser and Memorial-- only Memorial is willing to take on the under- and uninsured patient load (besides, Kaiser specializes in non-urgent outpatient care), leaving Sonoma County with one major community hospital. Memorial is a fine hospital, but one emergency/trauma resource in a moderately large city and even larger county, regardless of increases in beds or staff, is bound to leave the city helpless if something should ever happen to that hospital, or at the very least increase traffic jams in concentrated areas on what are already overcrowded, ill-maintained roads.

And what does Sutter get out of it? They're a not-for-profit corporation which boasts that it reinvests profits into patient care and that they offer "costly and generally unprofitable, such as medical research, trauma care and immunization programs for children of poor families." Their mission statement, verbatim is: " It's our mission to offer these much needed services, regardless of how we're reimbursed."

And yet, the hospital is closing because the costs to keep the hospital running, to keep it able to provide these "much needed services" exceed the costs of other regions in Northern California that it serves. Maybe I've missed the whole story, maybe there are benefits to the job and resource loss that Sutter has yet to disclose-- but given that the Press Democrat (of all sources) was the one to leak the news about its closure, Sutter should probably come up with something better than "we can neither confirm nor deny allegations of our intentions and motivations for closing this hospital."

It's not as huge of a company as the national hospital chains (like Kaiser) so I think it's easier to hold the whole group accountable for its actions-- especially if it's going to claim that it serves the underserved where for-profit hospitals won't go.

My mom's experience with all these changes has been moderately frustrating, to say the least. After the PD released the breaking news that Sutter planned to close, a lot of employees went to work kind of annoyed that day. Sutter execs scrambled to put together a memo that basically said "we meant to tell you sooner, but nothing's really been finalized yet," and after a week or two of some weird standoff between employees and execs, Sutter offered incentives for employees to remain with Sutter until the end of 2007 instead of jumping ship. Big whoop.

Long story short, Sutter isn't really explaining itself well for its actions, and people are starting to get suspicious for how they're dealing with the newsbreaks. And if my Mom wants to keep her pension (and retire before 70), she might have to move or commute an hour or two away.

But my financial aid package will increase my family contribution because the "incentive" to stay with Sutter is a raise...

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