[caption id="attachment_87767" align="alignnone" width="500"] Aurora Behavioral Health is returning psychiatric acute care to Sonoma County with the reopening of this facility in west Santa Rosa, starting in mid-2013. (image credit: Aurora Behavioral Health)[/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital, the long-anticipated 95-bed acute care psychiatric hospital on Fulton Road, has passed its Joint Commission survey, bringing the facility ever closer to full-scale opening after more than four years of construction and regulatory approvals.

The psych hospital, which partially opened last July to adult patients, said the signoff from the Joint Commission means it is now accepting Medicare patients, a key step in reaching final completion.

In a statement, the hospital said the Joint Commission passed Aurora Santa Rosa "with high marks and special accolades for clinical excellence and staff knowledge of patient safety practices." The Joint Commission is an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits more than 18,000 hospitals across the nation.

Typically, it conducts a “surprise” three-to-five day onsite inspection of its member hospitals every three years to interview employees, physicians, patients and board members. It also scrutinizes all aspects of hospital operations — patient records, cleanliness, policies and procedures, teamwork, safety measures and more. Because Aurora is a brand new facility, this was its initial survey.

“The results are a tribute to the physicians, managers, and employees who work together every day to provide this high quality care and I’m very proud of the staff here at Aurora,” hospital CEO Ken Meibert said in a statement. “The Joint Commission surveys fulfill an important function for every hospital. They keep us accountable and inspire us to continually improve.”

Now, the hospital is awaiting similar approval from Medi-Cal. It has not yet opened its adolescent or senior units.

The return of a fully functioning psych hospital fills a huge void, particularly after both St. Joseph Health, which previously owned the Fulton Road building, and Sutter Health closed such facilities in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

Prior to the partial opening of Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital, Sonoma County was one of 26 counties in the state that had no psych beds for adults, or 45 percent of the state’s 58 counties, according to the California Hospital Association. The county also was one of 47 with no psych beds for adolescents, meaning patients were often sent to Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae or even further south.

In late 2009, Corona-based Signature Healthcare Services, the parent company of Aurora Behavioral Health Care, purchased the 52,000-square-foot general acute care facility at 1287 Fulton Rd. More than $4 million has been spent renovating the campus.

The facility (707-800-7700, aurorasantarosa.com) will be staffed by some 60 mental health professionals, including physicians, nurses and support staff, who will treat patients suffering from mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.