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New entity will have 500 doctors, more than 100 other health providers

SOLANO COUNTY – Sutter Health's Solano medical group is merging with three other Sutter groups, forming one of the largest physician networks in Northern California with almost 500 doctors and 122 other health professionals.

The Solano Regional Medical Group, with 55 physicians and 20 allied health professionals, will join three Sacramento-area Sutter affiliates, and the new group will serve patients from Solano County to the Capitol region. Sutter is headquartered in Sacramento.

The Solano network will join the Sutter West Medical Group, the Sutter Medical Group and the Sutter Neuroscience Medical Group.

The newly-merged group will provide services ranging from primary care to highly specialized medical services such as oncology and neuroscience.

Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the merger will enable physicians to coordinate care more efficiently -- and more affordably -- while providing more effective support in specialty and sub-specialty care, Sutter said in announcing the merger.

The cost of care will decrease with the expanded group while also positioning the physician network to better address an evolving medical landscape as provisions of the recent health care reform take place, Sutter said.

"With this merger, if our patients need specialized care or referrals for other medical services, we will be a part of an expanded network of leading physicians who are connected through a secure electronic medical record system that will make those transfers smooth and easy to monitor," said Samuel Santoro, president of the Solano Medical Group.

The Solano group was already the largest in the county, but will now join a group of nearly 600 physicians and allied health professionals.

"This merger will create one of the largest multispecialty practices in Northern California," said Sy Russell, Solano Sutter spokesman.

With elements of health care reform taking shape over the next four years, hospitals and medical groups have begun investing heavily into such groups, as physician recruitment and retention are seen as key elements in dealing with an expected influx in patients.

The merger will allow for "the convenience of seeing a physician from the same medical practice when you live in one place and commute to work in another," Mr. Santoro said.

The Solano group was founded in the 1950s and serves patients in Fairfield, Rio Vista, Vacaville and Vallejo.

Sutter West Medical Group was founded in 1994 and includes 95 physicians and 30 allied health professionals, which includes nurse practitioners and other assistants. It serves patients in Davis, Dixon, Winters and Woodland.

The Sutter Medical Group was founded in 1984 and consists of 300 physicians and 65 allied health workers, serving Auburn, Elk Grove, Roseville and Sacramento.

And Sutter Neuroscience Medical Group, founded in 1998, has 25 physicians and seven allied health workers, serving patients throughout Northern California and Nevada.

"All of the physicians in each of these four groups are excited to come together so we can continue to effectively prepare for, and respond to, the rapid changes we are seeing in the world of health care," Mr. Santoro said.

Sutter's West Bay Region also has a large physician network, serving San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and Lake counties. It includes the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation.