[caption id="attachment_16531" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Memorial purchases 23,000-square-foot historic medical building, previously leased for skilled nursing and other services. "][/caption]

SANTA ROSA – St. Joseph Health System Sonoma County has purchased a 25,000-square-foot former convalescent hospital across from Memorial Hospital that it previously leased for skilled nursing and palliative care.

Officials closed escrow on the $5.2 million purchase Oct. 30 following about 10 months of negotiations.

“It has 60 licensed beds, which we feel would be very useful to us at some point in the future and gives it a lot of flexibility," said Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Chief Financial Officer Mich Riccioni. "Also it’s adjacent to the hospital and for that reason was seen as an asset we could not pass up.

“We haven’t sat down and planned exactly what we will use it for yet, but it will serve the community with some kind of patient care.”

Memorial rented the building at 151 Sotoyome St. for 10 years ending in March 2009. Officials announced intentions not to renew the lease and another for a building on Fulton Road early last year as part of $7.7 million in cost-reducing measures. As part of the cutbacks, skilled nursing and inpatient psychiatric care provided from the two sites were eliminated, while a majority of services continued.

At around the same time, Sutter Health announced that it would not transfer its county service obligations to Memorial, and officials were faced with repurposing space that was constructed for the expected increase in patient load. The neurorehabilitation unit, acute rehabilitation unit and palliative care services formerly provided from the Fulton and Sotoyome campuses were then consolidated into the main property.

“One month after we announced the discontinuation of selected services, Sutter announced that it would not be closing, and by then we had already completed the 80-bed expansion that was to accommodate an influx of patients,” Memorial spokeswoman Katy Hillenmeyer said.

“So we made the decision to relocate several of the very important services from the Fulton and Sotoyome campuses into the hospital providing a more positive arrangement for patients, who are now closer to hospital staff and support services.”

Near the expiration of the leases, the owner of both buildings approached Memorial about purchasing the Sotoyome property. Officials approved the funding as a capital expenditure in the 2009 fiscal year ending June 30.

“We had been serving patients in that building for a decade, and we are looking forward to using it again,” Mr. Riccioni said.

As a contingency to the sale, the city will also have to stop using a parking lot near the building. The facility’s owners agreed to allow police, fire and others to use the space in order to prevent an eminent-domain takeover of a portion of the hospital, but the deal ended if the building was sold. Memorial officials are now working with city representatives on a mutually agreeable parking arrangement.

Retired psychiatrist Daniel Marrin purchased the Fulton and Sotoyome buildings with former dentist Jim Berger and other partners several decades ago. Dr. Marrin said he expects the sale of the west Santa Rosa site to close in the first quarter of 2010.