Lawsuit seeks to block new Sutter Health hospital

Less than a week after Sutter Health celebrated a groundbreaking for a $284 million hospital, critics filed a lawsuit to stop development on the hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., the North Bay Business Journal reports.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to block development of the 82-bed hospital, alleging that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors' approval was based on a flawed environmental impact analysis. By state mandate, the facility is supposed to replace a facility that was deemed seismically unsafe.

Plaintiffs include the Palm Drive of Sebastopol and Healdsburg District hospital boards and the California Nurses Association, which opposed the Sutter proposal during earlier hearings. Another plaintiff, Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, is a nonprofit that fights urban sprawl.

The main objections to the hospital voiced earlier are repeated in the suit, the Press Democrat reports. Because the new hospital is too far from county population centers, it would encourage driving and discourage transit use, the lawsuit said. Another concern was that it could force district hospitals and other medical facilities to downsize or close.

Evan Rayner, chief executive of the North Sonoma County Health Care District, which oversees Healdsburg District Hospital and who officially authorized the lawsuit, noted earlier that smaller hospitals could suffer negative collateral financial damage which could be significant in an already fragile environment.

David Schonbrunn, president of the Transportation Solutions group, called the hospital site's placement on the "fringe of Santa Rosa" an "utterly classic" example of urban sprawl, and said it undermines Sonoma County's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Nurses Association spoke out against the Sutter hospital during earlier hearings, due to a union-led dispute over labor practices and the planned closing of a San Francisco hospital that serves a mostly low-income population.

The lawsuit was filed five weeks after the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the hospital.

To learn more:
- read the Press Democrat piece
- see the North Bay Business Journal articles: article 1 and article 2

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