Healdsburg District Hospital and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital announced Tuesday they have agreed to collaborate on medical services provided in north Sonoma County.
The "affiliation agreement" by Memorial, which already is part of a health system that operates Petaluma Community Hospital, helps extend its reach to the northern part of the county.
The pact provides a framework for jointly recruiting physicians, developing more integrated clinical systems, entering into new business ventures and conserving resources, according to the chief executives of the two hospitals.
"This is really kind of the beginning stages of what we're trying to do," said Kevin Klockenga, president and CEO of Memorial Hospital.
Both hospitals will continue to operate separately, maintaining independent staff and finances. The North Sonoma County Healthcare District owns and operates Healdsburg District Hospital, while the St. Joseph Health System, based in Orange, runs Memorial Hospital.
Evan Rayner, the district's CEO, said "there are many opportunities to work together in physician recruitment, best practices and additional business ventures."
Both Klockenga and Rayner said the new agreement does not portend a takeover by Memorial of the Healdsburg hospital, nor does it represent a competitive response to expanding health care services by Sutter Medical Center in north Santa Rosa.
"This really is purely about what is in the best interest of the two hospitals," said Klockenga.
Healdsburg District Hospital, a 43-bed facility, serves about 60,000 residents who live in north Sonoma County, including Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale. The district also operates a wound care clinic, physical therapy and women's diagnostic care at an off-site clinic on Healdsburg Avenue in Healdsburg.
The 278-bed Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is affiliated with several services based in northern Sonoma County. They include North County Hospice in Healdsburg, a new urgent care clinic scheduled to open November 22 in Windsor. St. Joseph also operates an existing outpatient blood draw station in Windsor.
Klockenga said he and Rayner have been in discussions on ways to work together for about a year.
The agreement comes just two months after Sutter Health, a Sacramento-based health system, broke ground on a new 82-bed hospital on a 25-acre site next to the Wells Fargo Center, off Highway 101 and Mark West Springs Road. The hospital is set to open in late 2014.
Healdsburg District Hospital is part of a group that is suing Sutter Health and Sonoma County over the approval of the new Sutter hospital, alleging that the environmental analysis of the project is "flawed and fragmented."
Sutter's new hospital is part of a growing geographic concentration of medical services in north Santa Rosa. This includes Kaiser Permanente's new hospital tower at its main Santa Rosa medical campus, as well as numerous Kaiser medical office buildings to the north.
In addition, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers recently launched its new Vista Family Health Center on Round Barn Circle.
The 42,000-square foot clinic, with a medical and administrative staff of 150 and 56 exam rooms, is expected to eventually serve about 25,000 patients and log some 85,000 patient visits a year.
Klockenga and Rayner, in a conference call with reporters, stressed that under the agreement, both hospitals will continue to operate independently. The governing body of each hospital will maintain exclusive control of its policies, management, assets, and neither party shall share any liabilities, including financial obligations.