In a small, purple room at a Santa Rosa Avenue mobile home, Paula Cuevas, 92, lies motionless in a hospital-style bed. A tapestry of the Virgin of Guadalupe hangs on the wall above her head, a few inches from a suspended feeding bag and tube.
Cuevas, who had a stroke about seven years ago, may not be able to speak or move, but she knows nurse practitioner Jenny Shipp is in the room with her. Shipp checks the frail woman’s vital signs and examines her appearance, the whole time reassuring Cuevas’ daughter, Antonia Iñiguez.
“You know, Antonia, there’s no difference,” Shipp said. “She’s looking good. I called her name but she didn’t wake up, but she’s just as beautiful as ever.”
As Cuevas’ round-the-clock caregiver, Iñiguez, 50, tends to nearly all of her mother’s needs. But she cannot be her doctor or nurse. That task is left to Shipp, who is part of a medical service called House Calls, run by St. Joseph Health.
St. Joseph Health, which operates two hospitals in Sonoma County and a slew of outpatient medical services, is one of the county’s most prominent nonprofit health care providers. Its flagship institution, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, with 1,794 employees and total revenue of $388 million in 2014, is the largest nonprofit organization headquartered in Sonoma County.
Memorial Hospital is St. Joseph’s principal brand and the best example of its mission in Sonoma County. But that mission, inspired by St. Joseph’s parent organization, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, extends beyond traditional hospital services. The St. Joseph mission also includes direct community services and works that empower local residents to live healthier and more fruitful lives, said Matthew Ingram, community partnership officer for St. Joseph Health.
“From the very beginning, the hospital and our provision of services is core to why we exist,” Ingram said.
Ingram pointed out that providing “community benefit” services is a requirement of all nonprofit organizations. But he said that St. Joseph goes one step beyond that mandate.
Both Memorial and Petaluma Valley operations provide a tithing contribution that amounts to 10 percent of net income. That contribution gets reinvested back into the community, he said, comprising a major portion of the $5 million budget for St. Joseph’s community benefits department.
House Calls program
The House Calls program, staffed with two nurse practitioners, two registered nurses, two medical assistants and a physician medical director, is a major benefit for those patients who cannot easily get to a doctor’s appointment. For Iñiguez, the program allows her to fulfill an obligation to her mother that she takes very seriously.
“She gave me my life. If I turn my back on her, who will care for her?” asked Iñiguez, 50, speaking in Spanish. Iñiguez, who also cares for a blind brother in the same mobile home, said she can’t imagine sending her mother to a nursing home.
“I feel proud that I can have her at that age, even if she’s in her little bed,” she said. “I know if I have doctors that come here she can stay in a home where there is warmth and family.”
St. Joseph’s community benefits program funds a range of other services and projects, including a dental clinic in Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood and a respected community organizing program that’s currently active in Guerneville, Cloverdale, Petaluma and Santa Rosa.
Services for homeless
In Guerneville, community organizer Ernesto Garay has supported a west county chapter of the county’s Health Action coalition, as well as other community efforts to serve the area’s most vulnerable populations. Garay was part of a larger collaborative that helped put together the recent Clean Day program, which provided showers and an array of social services to local homeless people, some of them military veterans.
Other programs from St. Joseph’s community benefits department include:
A mobile dental clinic and a mobile medical clinic.
A peer-to-peer health education program, called Promotores de Salud, that is aimed at the local Latino community.
A robust physical education and nutrition program called School Days.
“We back that up with significant dollars above and beyond what we’re required to do,” said Ingram, St. Joseph’s community partnership officer.