SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sansum Clinic, named after a doctor, and Sutter Health, named after the famous fort, are in the process of joining forces.
Both health care providers got their 102 years ago.
Sansum CEO Kurt Ransohoff talked about the partnership that will offer financial support at Sansum Clinic's corporate offices in Goleta.
He said inflation that followed COVID-19 care has challenged the health care industry.
"COVID was really hard on medical providers, I know we were running clinics at night, vaccinating people, running clinics on weekends, and so was the hospital, a lot of that was entirely un-reimbursed care," said Dr. Ransohoff, "And we were here for the community."
Sansum said while costs driven by inflation are a major concern the goal of the partnership is to stabilize healthcare in the community.
Sansum has been trying to be cost effective and accessible and believes the partnership will enhance efficiencies.
The relationship is intended to keep costs down.
"We probably get paid the same by Medicare now that we were getting paid in 2020 and that is about 40 percent of our business."
The clinic has also seen some generous philanthropists pass away.
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, who donated more than $10 million dollars to The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, died in October at the age of 97.
"There has a been a huge culture of philanthropy in this community and it changes over time, and I'm sure that there will be new people who will step up, but I think all of the not-for-profits in Santa Barbara are going to be experiencing a loss of some of the titans of this community," said the internist.
Until now Sansum was the only organization like it in California without a partner, but Sutter was on its radar.
"About 15 years ago, Sansum Clinic thought we really do need a partner and at that time we could have looked at anyone in the state, and the entity we chose to go talk to was Sutter."
The recession that took hold between 2007-2009 stalled those discussions.
Sansum tried to merge with Cottage Health six years ago but regulatory issues prevented it.
Sansum and Sutter leaders are working to meet any regulatory approval requirements needed.
"There are regulatory issues that we need to deal with and so that takes time and there are insurance companies that we need to talk to, so there is bunch of logistical things that need to happen," said Ransohoff, "But we are hopeful that we will formalize the relationship even more than we have already in the next couple weeks."
Sutter has been in the spotlight and on 60 Minutes for being too big, but Ransohoff said the closest Sutter hospital is 200 miles away from Santa Barbara, so it is not likely to be an issue along the Central Coast.
He said they are not coming here with the idea that they can move cases to their hospitals.
"They want to make healthcare better in Santa Barbara not diminish it."
Dr. Ransohoff does not foresee any layoffs at its local health and specialty clinics.
"There is demand for more services, we need to start with enough nurses and doctors in place, I think there will be an expansion."
Sansum is trying to hire medical staff at a time when there is a shortage of doctors and mental health providers in Santa Barbara,
He believes Sutter's resources will help Sansum attract the people needed.
Patients are not likely to notice change unless they go with a new or combined name.
"We don't think things will change in the short run, over time we will be able to have more resources and more tools and better access for out patients," said Dr. Ransohoff.
He said Sutter has made a huge investment in outpatient care already in Northern California.
To critics of the Sansum-Sutter deal he said, "We are doing this because there is a huge demand for our services and we need to be able to meet that demand."
Their partnership should be completed in the fall.