Petaluma residents and health-care providers could soon receive a major boost from the projected expansion of a North Bay physicians' association.
The Marin-Sonoma Independent Practice Association is attempting to add physicians from three hospitals north of Petaluma — Santa Rosa Memorial, Palm Drive and Healdsburg district — to its current members from Petaluma Valley, Sonoma Valley, Marin General and Novato Community hospitals, and thereby increase its membership from around 350 to some 500.
This, in turn, could strengthen the Marin-Sonoma IPA's ability to negotiate contracts with insurance companies, resulting in savings for physicians; reduce of physicians' administrative and other overhead costs; boost physician recruitment and retention; and create a larger physician pool for patients to utilize.
“It is particularly important that physician recruitment be strengthened in Petaluma,” said Ramona Faith, CEO of the Petaluma Health Care District.
Physician groups from Palm Drive, Healdsburg and SRMH all have expressed interest in joining Marin-Sonoma IPA, and contract discussions with them have been taking place.
“Under health-care reform, it will be all the more important for health care providers to work collaboratively. We are currently exploring ways in which the St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare medical practice foundation and Annadel Medical Group (a physicians group supported by St. Joseph Health System-Sonoma County) can partner with other key health care providers in the region. At this point, no relationships have been finalized,” said C.R. Burke, president and CEO of St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare, in a written statement.
Local hospitals have been facing increasing financial struggles during the past several years, and part of the motivation to expand the Marin-Sonoma IPA is to create a network that has some of the same desirable qualities — such as negotiation of favorable physician reimbursement rates — as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health physician groups.