The destiny of Petaluma Valley Hospital became just a bit clearer last week following an announcement by the Petaluma Health Care District that a Los Angeles-based healthcare company is the favorite to become the next operator of the city’s publicly-owned hospital.

Paladin Healthcare, a for-profit enterprise which operates four L.A.-area hospitals in “underserved, disadvantaged urban communities,” according to its website, is now in negotiations over the specifics of what is expected to become a long-term contract to operate Petaluma’s 80-bed hospital. Paladin is known for turning around struggling hospitals, but in Petaluma it would be a case of “sustaining and growing” the hospital, according to a Paladin spokesman.

Assuming that a formal written agreement is reached with district officials this month, and later ratified by voters in the June 6 election, Paladin will take over operations from St. Joseph Health which has, for the past two decades, capably operated the city’s only acute care facility on a lease with the Petaluma Health Care District. St. Joseph was in negotiations to extend its lease of the hospital, but talks with district officials ended without a deal last fall. St. Joseph has agreed to continue managing the hospital until Sept. 1 and work with the new operator on a smooth transition.

According to Ramona Faith, CEO of the Petaluma Health Care District, Paladin was selected due to its commitment to maintaining core services at the hospital, including emergency services, maternity, obstetrics, inpatient and intensive care services, while also investing in the facility, its medical equipment and technology upgrades. The company has pledged to continue employment for current hospital staff for at least six months and would honor existing union contracts.

Petaluma Valley Hospital has been and continues to be operated profitably, and the quality of care offered to its patients has, for the most part, been consistently outstanding.

Maintaining the high quality of care achieved by St. Joseph, along with a well-oiled hospital foundation and affiliated physician group, is the responsibility of the publicly-owned PHCD. As details emerge regarding the exact nature of the proposed agreement with Paladin, we hope that the opaque process of selecting a new operator of the hospital will become more open and transparent. There are many questions to be asked and answered for doctors, employees and, most importantly, the public which is served by the hospital.