Wildfires, relocation, expansion: What a decade it's been for outgoing Sonoma-Marin Sutter hospital exec
O n Friday, after more than 10 years leading two of Sutter Health’s North Bay hospitals, CEO Michael Purvis will walk out of his office for the last time.
He will hand over the keys to his successor, Dan Peterson, who will oversee Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and Novato Community Hospital. Peterson was an internal choice, having served for three years as chief administrative officer at Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport.
Purvis’ departure marks the official end of an era that saw him lead Sutter’s Santa Rosa hospital from a crowded, underfunded facility on Chanate Road, to the $292-million Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital that opened in 2014, and is now in the midst of a $158-million expansion set for completion in April 2022. The new 3-tower structure will add 40 beds to its existing 84. The Novato hospital houses 75 beds.
Purvis, 66, is retiring, though he bristles when it’s said aloud.
“I really don’t like the word retirement because it sounds like you’re going to go lay on a couch somewhere and never be seen again,” he said with a smile. “So when I think about this, it’s the freedom of schedule … it’s having more flexibility and not having that 24/7 responsibility, which I’ve enjoyed for many, many years. I mean, I thrived on it.”
After the fires
Purvis had been thinking about the R-word for several years, but after three consecutive years of wildfires — each one affecting him, his family or the hospital — he decided it was time to make a solid plan.
Purvis lost his home in the Fountaingrove neighborhood of Santa Rosa in the 2017 Tubbs Fire. A year later, his in-laws lost their home in the fire that wiped out Paradise in the Sierra foothills. Last year’s Kincade fire forced Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital to evacuate for several days.
He visibly wears the pain from the traumas.
“When we came to Santa Rosa, we bought a house that we thought we would live in for the rest of our lives,” the Oregon native said. “We lost all that and much, much more, as many, many people did.”
The complexity of the insurance process and trying to navigate an entire rebuild played a big role in his decision.
“But most importantly, we lived in a cul de sac with seven other houses and all of our neighbors … we knew that no matter what, we were going to be in a new neighborhood,” he said. “Given all this happened in the last three years, we (decided) to look at other options, which basically were options of places we’d lived before. We wanted to go someplace where we had friends and connections.”
Purvis and his wife, Carol, are relocating to Granite City, outside of Sacramento, where they lived before moving to Santa Rosa.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t be back to visit the friends he’s made in Santa Rosa.
“We were neighbors,” said Judy Coffey, who retired a year ago after 30 years with Kaiser Permanente, where she most recently served as senior vice president and area manager for the health system’s Marin-Sonoma service area. “We both lost our homes, so not only has he been a colleague, but also a good friend.”
As a colleague, Coffey described Purvis as well-spoken, on-point and collaborative.