BAY AREA: Summit-Sutter Hospital Merger Nears Completion
Summit Medical Center in Oakland "expects to present its board of directors with a definitive agreement to merge with Sutter Health hospital system by mid-November," Modern Healthcare reports. Summit spokesperson Nancy Happel said, "We're refining and completing the definitive agreement, and it's on track to be presented to the (relevant) boards in November." If approved, the deal would make partners out of Summit -- "the largest independent private hospital left in the Bay Area acute-care market" -- and "fierce rival" Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley "to form a two-headed giant that would dominate acute care along much of the San Francisco Bay's eastern shoreline." Officials familiar with the deal say the combination "would give Alta Bates and Summit more clout in negotiations with HMOs and other insurers, save money on ... supplies and services and help create a more coordinated clinical network in the region." Critics charge that the merged hospitals "could come close to monopolizing acute care in the region." According to Modern Healthcare, it is "too soon to tell how regulators will view" the potential merger, since state and federal officials won't begin reviewing the merger until a final deal is signed. New Century Healthcare Institute hospital consultant Wanda Jones "predicted the merger will sail through the regulatory process" (Rauber, 10/5 issue).
Sutter In Sonoma
In other Sutter news, Modern Healthcare reports that Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa "has been cited by HCFA for failure to maintain a sufficient nursing staff and for inadequate record-keeping." Sutter officials "denied that staffing was inadequate but submitted a correction plan to" federal officials that calls for hiring more nursing staff. The HCFA report comes "at a sensitive time for the facility" because it is "battling nearby Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for designation as Sonoma County's first and sole trauma center." Kent Coson, emergency services coordinator for Sonoma County, said "the unfavorable HCFA report 'certainly is one of the things we will look at' in making that determination" (Rauber, 10/5 issue).