Big North Bay business stories of 2018

This is one of 10 recaps of major changes for or impacts on commerce in Sonoma, Solano, Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties this year.

The North Bay was showered with news about hospitals cutting services or making alliances beginning in April when Adventist Health and St. Joseph Health, which operate such North Bay facilities as St. Helena hospital, Queen of the Valley and Santa Rosa Memorial, announced plans to merge clinical activities and services in Northern California.

Then in July, St. Joseph’s and the North Sonoma County Healthcare District — which operates Healdsburg District Hospital — agreed to begin formal discussions about St. Joseph Health taking over managing and operating the 43-bed Healdsburg hospital. The hospital’s leadership said it’s difficult to stay afloat without a strategic partner to help with financial issues.

The affiliation is expected to move forward after final approval of the St. Joseph’s and Adventist deal. The latter deal is currently under regulatory review, which is expected to take a few more months, said Vanessa DeGier, executive director, marketing and communications, St. Joseph Health Northern California.

Healdsburg District Hospital’s move to strengthen operations was one of several decisions undertaken this year by smaller hospitals in the North Bay.

One of the more active community hospitals working to reinvent itself has been the 75-bed Sonoma Valley Hospital.

On Oct. 31, the Sonoma-based hospital shuttered its obstetrics unit.

In August, a deal was announced to transfer SVH’s Healing at Home hospice care services to UCSF-affiliate Healing by the Bay.

And the hospital is in the process of evaluating the future of its skilled nursing facility.

SVH also finalized an affiliation agreement with UCSF Health, and launched a $20 million capital campaign to help fund a new outpatient diagnostic center, projected to increase net revenue by $1.5 million annually, according to CEO Kelly Mather.

“This is a critical project for the hospital that creates operational efficiencies, increases revenue and strengthens the position of SVH as a viable independent hospital able to meet the needs of our community for years to come,” said Mather.

Part of the new revenue would result from physicians no longer having to refer patients elsewhere for advanced diagnostic care. And another portion would come from SVH’s affiliation with UCSF, which plans to use the new facility, Mather said.

Sebastopol-based Sonoma West Medical Center in September succumbed to years of financial struggles — too few heads in beds, inability to compete with major players in nearby Santa Rosa, a lawsuit over an alleged fraudulent business venture — and in September filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The facility reemerged shortly thereafter as Sonoma Specialty Hospital, a 37-bed long-term acute care hospital that also provides urgent care services and outpatient surgery.

In September, Marin General Hospital and UCSF Health announced a new strategic partnership to expand clinical collaborations in Marin County, a move touted by Marin officials as a way to keep the hospital independent. The alliance marks the fifth for the two health care systems and more collaborations could happen in the future, according to both entities.

Big North Bay business stories of 2018

This is one of 10 recaps of major changes for or impacts on commerce in Sonoma, Solano, Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties this year.