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Sutter Health is a not-for-profit health system in Northern California. Serving patients and their families in more than 100 Northern California cities and towns, Sutter Health doctors, hospitals and other health care service providers join resources and share expertise to advance health care quality and access. The Sutter Medical Network includes many of California’s top-performing, highest quality physician organizations as measured annually by the Integrated Healthcare Association. Major service lines of Sutter Health-affiliated hospitals include cardiac care, women’s and children’s services, cancer care, orthopedics and advanced patient safety technology.

Early History

The organization takes its name from California pioneer John Sutter whose namesake fort was one of Sacramentomarker’s original European settlements. In response to the influenza epidemic of 1918, community leaders constructed the first Sutter Hospital in the vicinity of the fort, replacing an old adobe house that had previously served as a makeshift hospital. Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento occupies this site today.

Other Sutter Health-affiliated hospitals date back to the 1800s and were some of Northern California’s earliest health care providers. For example, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco was formed out of successive hospital and medical school mergers dating back to the city’s earliest days of organized medicine. In 1866, the predecessor of today’s Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosamarker opened its doors to residents of Sonoma Countymarker.

Many of the health care facilities that eventually became part of the Sutter Health network were created as charitable hospitals by community members in cities coping with growing populations, epidemics, fires, floods and earthquakes .

Latter 20th Century

Sutter Health was officially created in 1981 as a small Sacramento health care system. A few years earlier the organization had introduced a series of reforms in governance, communication and accountability in the wake of a late 1970s scandal involving William Miofsky, a physician who was charged with and pleaded no contest to felony charges of sexually abusing sedated Sutter hospital female patients.

Over the next 15 years, government cutbacks, the advent of managed care and other financial pressures fueled an increase in hospital and physician organization mergers, acquisitions and affiliations. By 1995 Sutter Health had grown to include 18 affiliated hospitals, seven medical foundations (physician organizations) and numerous outpatient care centers throughout Northern California.

Meanwhile, in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker, another affiliation of hospitals was forming. By 1986, Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center in San Franciscomarker, Mills-Peninsula Hospital in San Mateomarker and Marin General Hospital in Greenbraemarker had created an affiliation known as California Healthcare System (CHS). Berkeley-based Alta Bates Corporation (now known as Alta Bates Summit Medical Center joined CHS in 1992, the same year that saw the creation of California Pacific Medical Center, formed through a merger of Pacific Presbyterian and Children's Hospital of San Francisco.

In January 1996, Sutter Health and California Healthcare System merged.

21st Century

The new century brought advances in health care technology and Sutter Health was among the first health systems in the United States to install bar code medication safety technology and an electronic intensive care unit.

In 2004, 13 Sutter Health hospitals were among 25 statewide dropped by the California Public Employees Retirement System from one of its HMO networks because of cost-related concerns.

Also in 2004 Sutter Health implemented a systemwide policy for charity care and health care discounts for uninsured and underinsured patients. In 2006 Sutter Health expanded its policy to offer automatic discounts to uninsured patients, Later it, along with several other health systems, reached settlement agreements in class-action lawsuits related to the billing of uninsured patients.

The Sutter Health Network currently consists of eight physician foundations, 25 acute care hospitals, cancer centers, a regional home health and hospice organization, long-term care centers, a university and research institutes.

In 2009, Sutter Health’s facilities and services were internally organized into five geographic regions.

Sutter Health Central Valley Region
  • Memorial Hospital Los Banos
  • Memorial Medical Center
  • Sutter Gould Medical Foundation
  • Sutter Tracy Community Hospital

Sutter Health East Bay Region

Sutter Health Peninsula Coastal Region
  • Menlo Park Surgical Hospital
  • Mills-Peninsula Health Services
  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation
  • Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center of Santa Cruz

Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region
  • Sutter Amador Hospital
  • Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital
  • Sutter Davis Hospital
  • Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento
  • Sutter Medical Foundation
  • Sutter North Medical Foundation
  • Sutter Regional Medical Foundation
  • Sutter Roseville Medical Center
  • Sutter Solano Medical Center

Sutter Health West Bay Region
  • California Pacific Medical Center
  • Novato Community Hospital
  • Physician Foundation at California Pacific Medical Center
  • Sutter Lakeside Hospital
  • Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa (subject to County requirements)
  • Sutter Medical Foundation North Bay

Affiliated provider organizations not aligned with a region because of locations or other considerations
  • Kahi Mohala, a behavioral health care system, 'Ewa Beach, Hawaiimarker
  • Marin General Hospital, Greenbraemarker
  • Sutter Coast Hospital, Crescent Citymarker
  • Sutter VNA (Visiting Nurse Association) & Hospice, Northern California-wide

Clinical Services

Sutter Health doctors and hospitals provide a variety of clinical services including cancer care, children's health (only pediatric emergency room in San Francisco), complementary medicine, diabetes care, heart care, home health/hospice, mental health care, orthopedics, pregnancy and childbirth, sleep disorders, transplant services and weight loss surgery (bariatrics).

Sutter Health also operates outpatient surgery centers in 13 communities and three retail-based Sutter Express Care health clinics in the greater Sacramento region.


Sutter Health doctors and hospitals participate in voluntary and mandatory programs that publicly report patient satisfaction, cost, utilization and quality of care measures. These include Hospital Compare, California Healthcare Foundation, California Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA), and The Leapfrog Group.

Sutter Health affiliated hospitals and medical groups, have been recognized by a number of independent health care quality organizations. For example:

  • 2009, the Lewin Group ranked Sutter Health the top health care system in California for quality.
  • 2009, SDI Health, the health care research firm formerly named Verispan, ranked Sutter Health fifth among the "Top 100" integrated health care networks in the United States.
  • 2008, The Leapfrog Group ranked two Sutter Health-affiliated hospitals to its “Top Hospitals” list.
  • 2008, the Integrated Healthcare Association recognized several Sutter Health affiliates for accomplishments in areas of clinical care including heart care, preventive care, chronic care management, pneumonia, patient satisfaction and use of information technology.
  • 2007, the Adaptive Business Leaders Organization named Sutter Health’s eICU as most innovative approach to health care delivery .

Individual performance measures for Sutter Health hospitals and affiliated medical groups are posted on the Sutter Health Web site.

Labor Relations

Sutter Health’s physician organizations, hospitals, home health and other services have nearly 60 locally-negotiated collective bargaining agreements with more than one dozen different labor unions. Approximately 13,700 employees have elected to work under labor union contracts. Sutter Health and its affiliates employ a total of approximately 48,000 people.

The absence of organized labor agreements in a number of Sutter-affiliated facilities has made the network a frequent target of union organizing efforts including so-called “corporate campaigns.” Organized labor’s corporate campaign against Sutter Health is detailed in the book “Death of a Thousand Cuts,” (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001 by Jarol Manheim (George Washington University). Maneim describes a corporate campaign as “a coordinated, often long-term, and wide-ranging program of economic, political, legal, and psychological warfare usually, but not exclusively, initiated by a union or by organized labor in general.” Organized labor, writes Manheim, “wanted Sutter to accept card check and neutrality and to impose system-wide standards on its bargaining units” in addition to “a total prohibition on subcontracting.”

In his book, Manheim describes a number of retaliatory tactics undertaken by organized labor to take advantage of Sutter Health’s “regulatory vulnerability.” Writes Maneim, “This campaign probably demonstrates the most comprehensive exploitation of the regulatory environment of any that has occurred in any campaign to date.”

External links


  1. Integrated Healthcare Association (IHA) Announces Pay for Performance Program Results and Award Winners, Integrated Healthcare Association.
  2. California Pacific Medical Center Women Pioneers in San Francisco Medicine, San Francisco Medical Society.
  5. California’s Closed Hospitals, Nicholas C. Petris Center on Health Care Markets And Consumer Welfare University Of California, Berkeley School Of Public Health
  6. Remote intensive care that's more intensive, US News and World Report.
  7. CalPERS gets OK to drop hospitals, Oakland Tribune.;col1
  8. Sutter Health settles class-action lawsuit, Oakland Tribune.
  9. California Pacific inaugurates $3.7 million ER for kids, San Francisco Business Times.
  10. The Lewin Group Analysis of Performance of Systems with More than Four Hospitals on Quality and Patient Satisfaction Measures: Q1 2007 thru Q4 2007, The Lewin Group.
  11. Sutter Health and UC Davis recognized for integration, San Francisco Business Times.
  12. Alta Bates, CPMC and Stanford hop on Leapfrog's list, San Francisco Business Times.
  13. Integrated Healthcare Association (IHA) Announces Pay for Performance Program Results and Award Winners, Integrated Healthcare Association.
  14. Innovations in Healthcare 11th Annual Awards Event, Adaptive Business Leaders.
  15. Innovations in Healthcare 11th Annual Awards Event, Adaptive Business Leaders. Video:
  16. The Death of a Thousand Cuts: Corporate Campaigns and the Attack on the Corporation (Hardcover) by Jarol B. Manheim
  17. Trends in Union Corporate Campaigns. A Briefing Book, Jarol B. Manheim, The George Washington University.

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