The end of every year is a time to reflect on the year that was, and think of hopes and wishes for the coming year. Looking back, it’s easy to see what makes Petaluma a tremendous city and community. Families and businesses find it a desirable place to be, and we witnessed our community at its best when we came together in the most productive and heartfelt way to aid our friends in the north and east who suffered extreme loss from the devastating fires.
We are very proud of how our hospital, Petaluma Valley, responded in the time of crisis. As we’ve gone back to business as usual here in Petaluma, the experience was an important reminder of how beneficial this hospital is to our community and our county. Just last month, PVH received an “A” grade in the Hospital Safety Score by the Leapfrog Group, an independent national nonprofit. The Hospital Safety Score was developed by the nation’s leading experts on patient safety and validates PVH’s commitment to its patients and its community. It was the highest-scoring community hospital in Northern California.
The Petaluma Health Care District, your public agency working to ensure local access to health care and wellness services, has been striving to secure a new operator for PVH for the last two years. St. Joseph Health entered into a 20-year lease in 1997 and provided the community a larger health system, greater financial stability and expanded regional resources.
Unfortunately, and to our surprise, SJH abruptly ended negotiations for a new lease after nine months in 2016 because we couldn’t agree on fair market rent; a non-compete clause assuring that SJH would not compete with the hospital by offering services in Petaluma that could and should be offered through PVH; and maintaining women’s health services.
After pursuing a second RFP process, the District selected Paladin Healthcare, one of three bids received, based on its thorough proposal that aligned with community-identified priorities, demonstrated its strengths as an organization, and articulated a strong vision for PVH.
Paladin’s bid was a 20-year lease with an option for a 10-year extension. Paladin asserted that core services would be maintained, there would be heightened awareness and focus on sustaining quality, it would bring new services based on community need and physician input, and it was interested in cooperating and collaborating with SJH.
Our ability to secure this lease with Paladin faced significant challenges in 2017 while SJH continues to operate the hospital post lease expiration.
The information technology system at PVH, comprised of critical health documentation functions like medical records, is the biggest obstacle to Paladin’s ability to take over operations. SJH upgraded the hospital’s Meditech IT system several years ago. During that upgrade, the system moved from a standalone platform to a SJH-integrated system. The District, Paladin and SJH have been discussing how to develop a new IT system for PVH.
Transferring an IT system with a hospital is standard practice, oftentimes with the existing operator leasing back the existing IT system to the incoming operator while a new upgraded IT system gets up and running. SJH hasn’t agreed to leave a functioning IT system for a new operator since the current system is now part of a remote system. Developing a new system will cost millions of dollars and take 12 to 18 months.