SONOMA COUNTY: Memorial Beats Out Sutter for Trauma Designation
Ending the longstanding feud over trauma designation, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital beat out Sutter Medical Center "primarily because a medical review team had found it better than Sutter in several departments that are key to treating patients with critical injuries," the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports. Sonoma County Medical Services Director Mark Kostielney said, "We are fortunate to have two fine medical institutions, but in the end I have to decide which hospital is currently better able to meet the standards of a Level II trauma center." Citing Memorial's better trauma services, operating rooms and facilities for receiving helicopter and ambulance patients, he added, "There is a clear distinction between the two hospitals as to how far they have progressed in their trauma services. Given the balance, I have to go with Memorial." Kostielney's decision must pass a public hearing, scheduled for March 23, but once official, Memorial will begin treating the area's most critical patients. Memorial staff were delighted by the decision. "Everybody was thrilled, but everybody realizes that this is probably just the beginning of a long road toward providing top notch trauma care," Memorial trauma services director Jim Adams said. Memorial COO Nancy Steiger said that "snagging the trauma center was important for the financial health" of Memorial's parent company. Noting the win gives the facility "high visibility that will attract" specialists, rehabilitation programs and students, she added, "There is a status that comes with working around a trauma center. With our pediatric care, our cancer program, our cardiology program, it is a very important piece." Sutter Medical CEO Cliff Coates said that the institution is "pleased the trauma decision has come to a conclusion," adding that it still plans to move forward in building a new hospital and will review the documents surrounding Kostielney's choice.
John Baxter, CEO of Health Plan of the Redwoods, predicted lower hospitalization costs with the new designation because specialists and equipment will be in one location. He said, "Our members will benefit by designation of a single site because it avoids having duplication at two hospitals. I think the whole community has been eager to get the benefits of a trauma center because the bottom line is that it will save lives" (Rose, 3/9). Not everyone in the community is so happy. Memorial opponents worry that the designation may allow the winning hospital to "corner the medical care market in the region and threaten the financial well-being of other Sonoma County hospitals." Paul Klopper, who lives near Memorial, opposed the decision, saying, "It's all about money. A designated trauma center gets 100% of the insurance money." Memorial neighbor Russ Kelly cited another concern. Like Sutter Medical, Memorial Hospital rests near the Healdsburg-Rodgers Creek fault. Kelly said seismologists have warned the area has a "70% chance of having a 7.1 earthquake within the next 30 years," adding, "I think they'll be sorry they put a trauma center on the fault zone." He downplayed worries about noise from medical helicopters flying in, saying, "Memorial is cooperating with the neighborhood as much as possible, and I give them credit for that." But area resident Calvin Simons disagreed. "Most [other] major cities ... don't have medical facilities that take helicopters in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The whole process was faulty. It was not democratic" (Norberg, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 3/9).