SANTA ROSA -- Two Sonoma County health care districts announced this evening they appealed a recent court ruling that sided with Sutter Health over objections to Sutter's new $284 million hospital, now under construction just north of Santa Rosa.
Healdsburg District Hospital and the Palm Drive Healthcare District also laid out grounds for a potential settlement, calling for the county of Sonoma to create a countywide health care provider planning process.
"We remain concerned with health care in the region, and, in particular, the health care access agreement and its impacts on the future of health care," said Evan Rayner, chief executive officer of Healdsburg District Hospital.
As a means of possibly "improving the health care delivery system in Sonoma County," the countywide health plan would settle the lawsuit, according to a letter from the districts' attorneys accompanying the announcement.
The appellants want such a plan to include the following elements:
Allocate of uncompensated care fairly, perhaps in the way of an uncompensated care funding pool.
Confirm roles of district hospitals, including their roles in emergency care and pandemic response.
Define responsibilities for indigent care in their districts.
Examine possible modifications to the health care access agreement.
Increase availability of health care specialists.
Cooperate on maximizing access to new federal revenue sources and adapting to Affordable Care Act of 2010 modifications.
The hospital districts also want a settlement to have a stipulated reversal of standing ruling, court fees and costs, and a nondisparagement clause.
A Sutter spokeswoman said the organization hadn't reviewed the new court filing.
In June, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau sided with Sutter over objections brought by the North Sonoma County Healthcare District, which oversees the Healdsburg Hospital. The district found fault with the size, scope and compliance of the forthcoming hospital.
The judge ruled that the health care districts did not have legal standing to sue. That's what the districts are appealing.
The districts then contended that general plan consistency, environmental impact and socio-economic impacts of the hospital would have a broad negative affect on the health care delivery in Sonoma County, particularly with the health care access agreement, which permitted Sutter to take over operations of the former Community Hospital from the county on the condition certain levels of care are provided.