SANTA ROSA: Hospitals Prepare for Trauma Center Showdown
The battle for Santa Rosa trauma center designation continued Tuesday, with Sonoma County medical services director Mark Kostielney ordering a new panel to update reviews of the competing hospitals, the Santa Rosa reports. A team of medical experts first examined Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Sutter Medical Center in March. Both hospitals are vying for county trauma center designation, which is expected to bring increased revenue and prestige. Kostielney stated that the update is "not designed to be a tie-breaker" and has not altered his plans to make a final decision in November. The new panel, whose members have yet to be selected, will provide Kostielney with "more current information about hospital services" and will add perspective to two previously completed evaluations. The existing reports offer "very different conclusions," adding controversy to the heated two-horse race. The March panel favored Memorial Hospital, claiming it had "superior facilities for handling the trauma center" and citing six specific areas of in which the hospital excelled, including "the proximity of emergency care services, capacity for growth in trauma services, diagnostic equipment and stable finances." Those findings conflict with a September environmental review, which found that "Sutter is better situated to handle emergency helicopter and ambulance traffic." In addition, the March report resulted in financial scrutiny of Memorial's bid "when [its] parent company, St. Joseph Health Systems, announced a $9 million deficit." Officials from St. Joseph's claimed that the "deficit was in other parts of the local system" and reported that Memorial had a $1.2 million profit last fiscal year. An auditor's report examining the financial stability of each hospital is expected later this week.
Sutter Cries Foul
While Memorial officials "didn't think an update was necessary," Sutter chief executive Cliff Coates said his hospital supports a "more comprehensive review, rather than an update of the old one" which they consider "flawed." Sutter officials denounced the first medical panel's two-page report, written on the day they visited Sutter, "for being short on specifics and for offering no substantiation for its conclusions." Coates asked Kostielney "for a review that would set measurable criteria for judging the two hospitals and provide data for its conclusions." In addition, Sutter complained that "at least one expert assisting the [original] review team had an interest in seeing Memorial get the trauma center designation." Kostielney will allow both hospitals to screen the new panel to eliminate any "conflicts of interest." At present, officials at both hospitals are preparing for a public meeting to be held on October 28 (Rose, 10/20).