Friday, November 16 , 2018, 4:09 am | Fair 47º

 
 
 
 
Good for Santa Barbara

In New Era of Patient Care, Cottage Health Finds Power in Partnerships

Collaboration with Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics an example of nonprofits helping each other for community benefit

Cottage Health operates the Santa Barbara, Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley hospitals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently awarded five-star ratings to Santa Barbara and Goleta Cottage hospitals. Click to view larger
Cottage Health operates the Santa Barbara, Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley hospitals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently awarded five-star ratings to Santa Barbara and Goleta Cottage hospitals. (Noozhawk file photo)

Cottage Health wants a healthy Santa Barbara community and hopes to achieve it through partnerships with local health-care providers and groups.

The nonprofit health-care provider’s “sole purpose is to ensure that not only people get good care when they come in our doors, but also, in an ever expanding way,  that we are concerned with the wellness of the community,” said Steve Ainsley, board chairman of the system that operates Santa BarbaraGoleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley Cottage hospitals.

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With more people having health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hospitals and neighborhood clinics are feeling the pressure to adequately serve the community. But people are unaware of the available health-care services.

“Many of the newly insured do not have a regular medical provider and rely on the emergency room for medical care,” said Dr. Charles Fenzi, CEO and chief medical officer of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

Fenzi said this reliance on a hospital’s emergency room for nonemergencies is not only costly, but it does not give patients the opportunity to receive preventative care available at neighborhood clinics.

Steve Ainsley, left, board chairman of Cottage Health, and president and CEO Ron Werft at a Santa Barbara Partners in Education event. Cottage Health is Santa Barbara County’s largest health-care provider and has become an innovative partner with — and financial supporter of — other nonprofit community health-care organizations. Click to view larger
Steve Ainsley, left, board chairman of Cottage Health, and president and CEO Ron Werft at a Santa Barbara Partners in Education event. Cottage Health is Santa Barbara County’s largest health-care provider and has become an innovative partner with — and financial supporter of — other nonprofit community health-care organizations.  (Noozhawk photo)

Cottage Health and the Neighborhood Clinics formed a partnership when the clinics were in financial distress several years ago and Cottage, along with other organizations, helped them survive.

Now the health-care partners are working to care for patients in a consistent way.

“When people do come into the ER and it’s not necessarily something that they should be in the ER for, we can turn around and say as they leave, ‘We want to set you up with a physician at the clinics,’” Ainsley told Noozhawk. “And I think that kind of thing is probably in our future.”

Fenzi said Cottage Health’s Care Management Department works with his clinics to help patients make the transition back into primary care when they leave the hospital.

“Coordinating care with Cottage Health results in better care for our patients and better health for the community,” he explained.

Steve Ainsley, Cottage Health board chairman, points to a 2013 Community Needs Assessment as the catalyst for the nonprofit health-care provider’s evolving approach to expanding patient access. “One of the focal points of the assessment survey is to determine where the weaknesses in health care are in this community, where the gaps are, who are the underserved, and how as a hospital in partnership with not-for-profits we can basically lift the wellness of the community,” he says. Cottage Health is currently conducting a follow-up survey. Click to view larger
Steve Ainsley, Cottage Health board chairman, points to a 2013 Community Needs Assessment as the catalyst for the nonprofit health-care provider’s evolving approach to expanding patient access. “One of the focal points of the assessment survey is to determine where the weaknesses in health care are in this community, where the gaps are, who are the underserved, and how as a hospital in partnership with not-for-profits we can basically lift the wellness of the community,” he says. Cottage Health is currently conducting a follow-up survey. (J.C. Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

In 2013, Cottage Health completed a Community Needs Assessment for Santa Barbara County that it has since used to direct the focus of its development plans and community partnerships. A main issue was access to health care.

“Using that as sort of our benchmark, we’ve selected 10 local not-for-profits that provide health care in various capacities and we gave them roughly $1 million total annually, at varying levels,” Ainsley said.

Recipients for 2016 include the Breast Cancer Resource Center, Carpinteria Children’s Project, Doctors Without Walls, Family Service Agency, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Mental Wellness Center, PathPoint, the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Health Linkages and Welcome Every Baby programs and the William Sansum Diabetes Center.

These groups — along with Cottage Health and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics — are tackling the health-care issues that emerged from the assessment survey.

“Cottage Health bringing all of us together certainly helped to accelerate collaboration on new programs,” Fenzi noted.

Again, Cottage Health is conducting a follow-up survey to the 2013 one. This time, the focus will be on people living in poverty. The phone survey will include a sample of 2,250 people with a majority from neighborhoods with at least 20 percent of the population living at or below the poverty level.

Ainsley said the current buzzword is “population health.”

“One of the focal points of the assessment survey is to determine where the weaknesses in health care are in this community, where the gaps are, who are the underserved, and how as a hospital in partnership with not-for-profits we can basically lift the wellness of the community,” he said.

Dr. Charles Fenzi, CEO and chief medical officer of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, cites the partnership with Cottage Health as a healthy development. “Coordinating care with Cottage Health results in better care for our patients and better health for the community,” he says,
Dr. Charles Fenzi, CEO and chief medical officer of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, cites the partnership with Cottage Health as a healthy development. “Coordinating care with Cottage Health results in better care for our patients and better health for the community,” he says, (Noozhawk file photo)

Cottage Hospital has deep roots in Santa Barbara, dating back to 1891 when a group of determined women raised the money to open it. As a nonprofit, Cottage Health receives no government funding and reinvests its profits.

“We live on what funding we get from the services we provide and then, significantly, from contributions that people make to the hospital,” Ainsley said.

Cottage Health has received a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for its Santa Barbara and Goleta hospitals. The ranking places the two hospitals in the top 2 percent of hospitals in the nation, with only seven other hospitals in California receiving the same rating.

But its work is not finished. The five-star rating “is the good news, the challenge is sustaining that,”​ Ainsley said. “It’s not a lifetime rating.” 

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Noozhawk contributing writer Kellie Kreiss can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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