Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Unanimously Approves New Sutter Hospital
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to allow Sutter Health to build a $200 million hospital next to the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, giving the not-for-profit hospital chain a "clear go-ahead" to move from its current location in Santa Rosa into a "major medical complex," the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. Sutter has an option to purchase about 20 acres from the 53-acre Burbank Center to build the proposed 118-bed hospital and an adjacent medical office building.
Sutter in 1996 signed a 20-year contract with the county to operate a community hospital -- which the county previously had run -- that provides services to uninsured patients. The current, 60-year-old facility on Chanate Road "is too expensive to retrofit" to meet seismic safety requirements, the Press Democrat reports.
Sutter plans to keep its Family Practice Clinic at Chanate Road and rely on the Southwest Community Health Center to lease space to handle uninsured patients and Medi-Cal beneficiaries seeing primary-care doctors.
Sutter plans to submit formal designs for the new facility in December. The county will conduct environmental review studies and land use hearings over the next year.
Sutter also plans to reduce the total number of beds at its existing hospital and Sutter-Warrack facility from 214 to 118.
Bill Steck -- general manager of the Service Employees International Union, which represents Sutter workers -- said the company's plan to reduce the number of beds "meets their targets of acceptable profit margin but does not meet this community's needs."
Supervisor Paul Kelley, who represents the district where the new hospital would be located, said, "It is clear to me they intend to provide the services that they have been providing."
According to the Press Democrat, health care activists and local residents said Sutter's move could "leave behind medical services for the poor" and result in increased noise and traffic congestion. Comments from several local residents "indicated neighbors intend to mount a spirited opposition movement," the Press Democrat reports.
Bill Fredrickson, president of the Berrybrook subdivision, said the subdivision opposes the hospital, adding, "The decision should be determined by the lowest possible impact on residents and not on solving the financial difficulties of these two organizations" (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 10/27).