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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, April 30, 2012, 6:00 am

Sutter medical group expanding Airway services

$13 million project includes relocating for women’s health programs

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    Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation will take another 19,000 square feet at the Landmark Executive Center where it will consolidate and expand services.

    SANTA ROSA — Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, the physician arm of  Sutter Health in the Bay Area, will undergo a significant expansion of services in Sonoma County, with much of it  being consolidated into 19,000 square feet of newly leased space at the Landmark Executive Center on Airway Drive. 

    Sutter’s foundation is investing $13 million into the new space and other consolidation efforts, part of a wider Sutter Health strategy focusing on the expansion of outpatient services versus inpatient hospital services. The foundation already has 46,000 square feet of space that is used for physician offices and other outpatient services at the Executive Center. The new space will house numerous services that are currently provided at the Warrack Campus on Summerfield Road, according to John Ray, chief operating officer of the foundation.

    Also part of the consolidation strategy is the Sutter Women’s Health Center on Steele Lane, where services include digital mammography, ultrasounds and others that will move to Airway Drive. Medical oncology and dermatology services that were started last year at the Warrack campus will also be moved to the new space, as will MRI and CT scans that were provided out of a mobile unit, Mr. Ray said. Some services such as X-ray and labs will be moved from the existing space at Airway Drive into the new 19,000 square feet, which will relieve space constraints for both patients and physician. 

    John Ray

    “We’re running out of space at the Landmark Center,” Mr. Ray said. “We are space challenged.”

    The Airway Drive center is expected to be open by the fourth quarter of this year, said Mr. Ray, adding that the foundation still has some time on its Steele Lane lease and is determining what it will do with that space.

    “It’s a major addition of new services and consolidation of some existing services,” he said of the Airway Drive center. “It will be a pretty comprehensive center.”

    Sutter Health’s forthcoming $284 million new hospital campus just north of Santa Rosa will also include 80,000 square feet of medical office space. Some services and physicians  could move into the new campus upon completion in 2014, Mr. Ray said, particularly surgeons. The medical campus will also house private physician practices and office space for Sutter-affiliated physicians.

    Some services and physicians will remain at the Warrack Campus, including imaging, lab, x-ray and integrated health and healing treatments for cancer patients, as well as Sutter’s employee health services.

    The expansion of outpatient services is a reflection of growth for the 240-plus member Pacific Medical Foundation, part of an industry-wide trend that has younger doctors shifting away from private-practice models and leaning more toward larger medical groups, Mr. Ray said. Part of the trend is driven by health care reform, which encourages integrated service models, and part of it is driven by the fiscal realities of running a small practice versus working with a larger foundation, Mr. Ray said.

    “It makes sense to be part of a larger whole,” he said. “It’s tougher and tougher. It’s a very complicated business, and it’s not going to get easier.” Asked if health care reform was driving any part of the consolidation, he said, “I would say partially. I don’t think people have really felt the affects of it, but even though we’re not 100 percent sure of the future, there’s nobody out there who thinks we’re going to get paid more in the future.”

    Patient demand will also force any medical provider to explore ways of providing more affordable care, Mr. Ray said.

    “We have to look at if we can get smarter about how we deliver care,” he said.

    All told, the foundation has 19 locations throughout Sonoma County, which saw a total of 148,000 patient visits last year, a 3 percent  increase from 2010.

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