Petaluma Valley Hospital sale approved
In preliminary results, a ballot measure asking voters to ratify the sale of Petaluma Valley Hospital to an affiliate of Providence St. Joseph Health was well on its way to passing with 85% support.
Measure CC, which needed a majority of support to pass, will complete the sale of the publicly-owned hospital to NorCal HealthConnect for $52.6 million. In the deal, the potential new owner has agreed to continue operating the hospital and emergency room for at least 20 years. The Registrar of voters said 80% of ballots had been reported Wednesday.
NorCal HealthConnect is the secular affiliate of the Catholic healthcare giant. They have committed to maintaining the family birthing unit for a minimum of five years, which emerged as a contentious campaign issue as opponents feared the deal would lead to the end of obstetrics at the 80-bed hospital.
Kevin Klockenga, chief executive of NorCal HealthConnect, said he was pleased with the results of Measure CC.
“Local voters are demonstrating just how deeply they value the important role Petaluma Valley Hospital plays in our community as a vital resource for acute and emergency medical care, as an employer, and as a pillar of the community,” he said in a statement. “We deeply appreciate their vote of confidence in NorCal HealthConnect and we intend to make good on our commitment to provide local, high-quality health care, preserve hundreds of local jobs, and improve and modernize the hospital.”
The Petaluma Staff Nurse Partnership a union representing nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital, campaigned against Measure CC. The union is in contentious negotiations with St. Joseph, which has operated the hospital on a lease from the Petaluma Health Care District since 1997.
Jim Goerlich, president of the union, said nurses will continue to advocate for the safety of the Petaluma community.
“Measure CC passed without any increased commitment to our family birthing center, no publicly shared details or visions for the growth of services in PVH and without making things right with our bedside caregivers,” he said in an email. “It is unfortunate, but true. We will all know soon enough if Providence's stated promise of growth and stability is true or an empty promise.”
The voter approval marks the conclusion of a 5-year process to determine the future of Petaluma’s only hospital. The deal is expected to close by Dec. 31.
“The passage of Measure CC with an overwhelming majority affirms our community’s value in having a high quality acute care hospital with emergency services in Petaluma for many years to come,” said Ramona Faith, CEO of the Petaluma Health Care District, which owns the hospital. “I commend the District Board for their persistence and their unwavering commitment to the residents of Southern Sonoma County, as well as the medical staff and the hospital employees, who also have never wavered in their commitment to serve their patients.”
The Petaluma Health Care District entered talks with St. Joseph to extend the lease, but negotiations ended over financial terms, a non-compete clause and an unwillingness to provide some female reproductive services. St. Joseph Health merged with Washington-based hospital giant Providence Health in 2016.
The district then selected Paladin Healthcare to lease the hospital in 2018, but that transaction ended when the Southern California company was unable to invest in an expensive electronic medical record system. Providence St. Joseph and Adventist Health attempted to form a joint operating company that was in talks to take over the hospital, but state Attorney General Xavier Becerra denied the move.
The new owner has promised to invest $100 million in the facility, including replacing the roof, upgrading the heating and cooling system, adding a new electronic medical record keeping system and doing required seismic upgrades.
The $52 million sale will provide the health care district a cash infusion it says will go toward healthcare programs in southern Sonoma County, including homeless, mental health and senior wellness services.
Voters clearly understood that selling the hospital was in the best interest of healthcare in Petaluma. Abrienne Muckenfuss, a tax manager for an accounting firm who voted at the Petaluma Veterans Building on Tuesday, said it was important to maintain a hospital in the city.
“The sale of Petaluma Valley hospital was important to me,” she said. “I’ve not had a great experience at the hospital. But from a local perspective, the population that needs a hospital, the sale will provide better services.”
(Contact Matt Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.)