"The demand is so great, there's no doubt that we're going to be running at close to occupancy within a year's time," said Ken Meibert, CEO of Aurora Behavioral Healthcare Santa Rosa.
In 2009, Aurora's parent company, Corona-based Signature Healthcare
, purchased the 52,000-square-foot facility, promising to restore full-service psych care in Sonoma County
after St. Joseph Health shuttered its mental health facility at the same location in 2008.
said the hospital, one of eight psych hospitals run by Signature
, has already hired between 60 and 70 nurses, social workers and other staff to support the opening.
Staffing levels will gradually increase as operations continue throughout the first year, he
The hospital projects it will eventually have 10 full-time psychiatrists and has contracted with five primary care and internal medicine physicians, all of whom are independent practitioners.
More hires are planned in the future.
"It's now a matter of hiring staff and getting them trained," Mr. Meibert
"We'll be recruiting for some time given the size of the hospital."
The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development has finished its approvals of the new hospital.
Now, all that sits between the opening is a final sign-off from the California Department of Health Services, which licenses all hospitals in the state.
While preparing for its opening, Mr. Meibert
said Aurora is currently negotiating with insurers and other hospitals in the region.
"Those counties are sending people to as far away as San Francisco and Sacramento, and a lot of times there's not access in Northern California," Mr. Meibert
said, adding that distance can become a significant hurdle for family members wishing to help someone dealing with a mental health crisis.
"It's going to benefit the whole region."
The increased need for inpatient psych care stems from several factors, but chief among them is a traditionally lower reimbursement rate from insurers, Medi-Cal and Medicare for inpatient psych care compared to more expense medical procedures such as cardiology or orthopedics, Mr. Meibert
While some of that is being addressed in the Affordable Care Act through improved access to mental health care, Mr. Meibert
said traditional med-surge hospitals began to shift away from inpatient psych care and toward specialty care.
"Because reimbursement is so low for mentally ill patients, that has caused a decline throughout the state in available psychiatric inpatient beds," Mr. Meibert
"We don't have to buy a whole lot of the expensive equipment that big med-surge hospitals do," Mr. Meibert
Topics: Aurora Behavioral Health Care, Ken Meibert
, Lisa Amador, mental health care, Napa County, North Bay Business Journal
6-3-2013, Rita Scardaci, Signature Healthcare Services
, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa
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