BAY AREA: St. Luke’s to Join Sutter Health System
To settle an antitrust
lawsuit against Sutter Health system, St. Luke's Hospital will become "the 30th hospital in the Sutter chain," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the affiliation agreement signed yesterday, Sutter will invest $15.5 million in St. Luke's over the next year and $4 million per year for the next decade "to build facilities and buy equipment for the financially ailing hospital" (Abate, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/27). The affiliation will also allow St. Luke's to access Sutter's "advanced information technology as well as other valuable support service" (Sutter release, 10/27). The agreement settles a 1999 lawsuit St. Luke's had filed against Sutter and its San Francisco affiliate, California Pacific Medical Center, alleging that the health system and medical center "were unfairly undermining St. Luke's finances by luring away the doctors who brought high-paying patients to St. Luke's" (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/27). Although it will lose its independent status with the affiliation, St. Luke's will remain not-for-profit and will maintain its local board of directors and local governance authority -- including "responsibility for decisions regarding clinical services, charity care, and mission and relationships with organized labor." St. Luke's CEO Jack Fries described the affiliation as "a three-way win," explaining, "St. Luke's future as a full-service acute care hospital is guaranteed; Sutter Health's charitable mission is strengthened, and the ... community retains a valuable health care asset." Sutter Health President and CEO Van Johnson added, "St. Luke's will add strength and value to Sutter Health by sharing its best practices in caring for vulnerable populations, and it will serve as another strong example of our mission and commitment to serving low-income and medically underserved communities" (Sutter release, 10/27). The affiliation awaits the approval of government regulators.
With the affiliation, San Francisco will be losing its last independent, full-service medical center, causing union leaders to fear that the agreement will "diminish local control over San Francisco's last large community hospital." Service Employees International Union Local 250 President Sal Rosselli said, "Everywhere Sutter has come in and made promises to retain services they've ended up taking things away." California Nurses Association spokesperson Chuck Idelson concurred, adding that many hospital mergers in the past five years have led to price hikes and decreased access to care. "Consumers really ought to be concerned. By every measure, the health care system is failing," Idelson said. However, Fries commented, "Yes, we were the last independent full-service hospital. But the most important thing at two o'clock in the morning for somebody with a gunshot wound is that our ER will still be there (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.