Also: St. Joseph's physician group has new specialist; healthysonoma.org launchesThe U.S. House of Representatives, with leadership from local Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, approved about $700,000 for local health care organizations in Marin and Sonoma counties.

If approved by the Senate, the dollars from a Labor, Health and Education Appropriations bill would provide about $500,000 to Petaluma Health Center and about $200,000 for a research project investigating the increasing rate of breast cancer in Marin.

In Petaluma the funding would be used for the federally qualified health center's plans to move to a new facility almost four times its current size. The center will need about $15 million to purchase and renovate the building on North McDowell Boulevard.

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St. Joseph Health System Sonoma County is moving forward with expansion to its revived medical practice with the addition of a critical care specialist and others on the way.

The health system opened the primarily pediatrics practice through its Orange-based, 1,600-physician Heritage Health Care Foundation last fall after going on a six-year hiatus from a group formed in Sonoma County years before.

The new practice called the Annadel Medical Group was formed from the dissolution of the long-standing Primary Care Associates, which closed Oct. 1 last year. The medical group now has six physicians.

The new St. Joseph physician, Dr. Dan Loube, will begin practice from the medical office near Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital next month, transferring from an Oregon medical center. He is board certified in pulmonary disease, critical care and sleep medicine and published in more than 30 medical journals.

The Washington native completed his residency in 1990 and served as chief of medicine during Operation Desert Storm and worked with other health care groups in Washington state and Washington, D.C.

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In preparation for the impending transfer of the hospital back to public control, Marin Healthcare District hired a full-time chief financial officer late last month, David Cox, who worked for Sutter Health at Marin General when it was first transferred to the organization.

After agreeing to end its contract early, Sutter will officially hand over control to the district June 29, 2010. Mr. Cox has served as a consultant to the board for the past several months, and he was officially hired on July 20.

Mr. Cox earned his undergraduate degree from Loyola Marymount University, and he has a master's from the University of Dayton. In addition to work with Sutter from 1982 to 1996, he worked in administration with Fletcher Allen Health Care of Vermont and St. Mary's Health System of Connecticut.

"We have benefited enormously from David's expertise and energy in recent months, and we know he'll be a key executive on the management team we're putting together," said district Chief Executive Officer Lee Domanico.

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Sonoma County government and hospital leaders have partnered in the launch of new Web site this month that is meant to bring public awareness to the community's changing health status.

The site called www.healthysonoma.org includes data on health, as well as the environment, education, the economy and transportation. Organizers hope it will help raise awareness around the county's most pressing needs as well as disseminate public health advisories.

The virtual database is funded by the county Department of Health Services, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, St. Joseph Health System Sonoma County, Kaiser and the United Way.

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The Sonoma Valley Health Care District voted recently to lease a four-acre property near the hospital for the next four years, with the option to purchase for about $4.2 million.

The undeveloped land will be used for overflow parking and construction staging while a new, $20 million central utility plant is built and replaces a parking area. The district, which operates Sonoma Valley Hospital, will pay about $175,000 a year for the property.

The site is the same property where the board considered building a new facility in order to meet state seismic requirements, but the plans were eventually dropped when bond funding fell through. The district was later approved for a $35 million bond measure, which officials have said will go to retrofitting the existing hospital to meet earthquake regulations.

Submit items for this column to D. Ashley Furness at afurness@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.