By Mitch Hanna

The start of a new year is always a good time for reflecting on where you have been and, more importantly, where you are going. Sutter Coast Hospital, even with 33 years of operating history on the North Coast, is certainly no exception.

When I take the time to look back on what was accomplished in 2018, I am filled with nothing but optimism for this year and beyond. Last year was about growth and investment, and about meeting the responsibilities that come with being a patient-focused health care provider, a major employer and a community leader.

In order to eliminate the need for cancer patients and others requiring infusion therapy to drive almost two hours to receive their treatments — sometimes multiple times a week for hours at a time — Sutter Coast invested in a new infusion center so that patients could receive care closer to home without the perils and challenges of a difficult commute. Two years in the making, it opened in May.

When kidney patients faced similar hurdles, Sutter Coast solicited a partner to provide dialysis services through a long-term land lease and to provide tele-nephrology consultation for our patients. Sanderling Dialysis of Crescent City allows patients to focus on treatment and recovery, not on how they would travel hundreds of miles back and forth each week.

We launched a new lung cancer screening program centered on a cutting-edge 128-slice CT scanner that allows for early detection. We also continue our work with Del Norte County to strengthen mental health services in our area, a serious and ongoing need.

Increasing access to high-quality, affordable care for remote locations like ours drove much of our work in 2018. It took six months of careful evaluation and a willingness to invest time and significant resources, but we have contracted with a new provider of emergency services committed to working with area insurers to substantially reduce patients’ out-of-pocket costs.

Additionally, we successfully recruited several providers over the course of the year: a general surgeon in February, followed by a pediatrician in March, two family nurse practitioners in October, one with a specialty in women’s health, and an OB/Gyn in November.

We are also proud of our long history of providing care to the poor and underserved patients in our community. That is not where our community partnership ends, however. Even as we strengthen today’s workforce, we are investing in tomorrow’s, as well. We are partnering with the College of the Redwoods on an LVN to RN program — the first class is set to start in September. We’re doing that so that licensed vocational nurses in our area have easier access to an advanced degree without requiring that they commute to Eureka for that training. We also made an initial $100,000 investment in an RN-to-BSN (Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program at Humboldt State University.

Our specialty program providers, our new physicians, tomorrow’s nurses — I’m confident that they will all find what I have. Serving Del Norte and Curry counties is as much a privilege as it is a responsibility, and it is one on which we are proud to deliver. We enter into 2019 with a strong foundation, and an extremely focused commitment to quality, access and affordability.

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Mitch Hanna is chief executive officer of Sutter Coast Hospital.

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