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Sonoma West Medical Center snags grant to extend care for patients

Sonoma West Medical Center has been awarded a $3,750,000 federal grant for developing partnerships to keep people healthy after they've left the Sebastopol hospital.

The funds, to be used over a five-year period, will be used to create processes and services that essentially track and support patient care, beginning with the emergency room or inpatient setting and continuing all the way to the home. The hospital's potential partners include West County Community Health Centers, home health agencies and county in-home support services.

“As one of our physicians likes to say, one of the fragile times for a patient in the hospital is their discharge,” said Alanna Brogan, executive director of the Palm Drive Health Care District, a taxpayer-funded agency that provides financial support and some oversight of the hospital.

Hospital officials said some initiatives may include sending nurses to housebound patients or offering psychological evaluation and appropriate placement to patients with mental illness who pass through the emergency department or are admitted for a medical reason. The grant will also zero in on the post-hospital needs of the homeless and so-called “frequent flyers” - patients with chronic health conditions and often homeless.

“The idea is to help them be successful in their home and in their recovery,” Brogan said.

The program is part of a state initiative aimed at improving physical and mental health care access and outcomes for the state's 12.8 million residents insured by Medi-Cal. The PRIME program also pushes hospital participants to move away from traditional hospital reimbursement models toward alternative “value-based” payment systems.

“This is really consistent with this whole movement toward population health, that hospitals, any hospital, no longer just sees their patients within their four walls,” said Sandra Bodley, a member of the board of directors of the Palm Drive Health Care District.

“So if you discharge somebody home,” she said, “we want to know that they can be supported at home, that they have food support, transportation, whatever they need to stay well at home. And that isn't the case for a lot of folks.”

Meanwhile, the Palm Drive district's board of directors are scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Friday to discuss the hiring of an outside contractor to manage the financially strapped hospital. Board members will consider a management services agreement between Sonoma West Medical Center and Pipeline Health Inc. of Southern California. Pipeline would receive an annual fee of nearly $1.7 million a year and take over top management duties at the hospital, providing a CEO, CFO and up to 10 administrative specialists.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the size of a federal grant awarded to Sonoma West Medical Center in Sebastopol. The grant amount is for $750,000 a year for five years.

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