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Palm Drive Hospital votes to close core services, files for bankruptcy

  • Palm Drive Hospital CEO Tom Harlan, center, and Board President Chris Dawson, left, react to a community member's negative opinion of the board during a Palm Drive Health Care District board meeting to vote on resolutions to cease acute inpatient services, close the emergency department and suspend the hospital's license in Sebastopol, Calif., on April 7, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Amid dozens of emotional pleas to keep Palm Drive Hospital open, members of the hospital board voted 4-to-1 Monday night to shut down core services at the financially strapped Sebastopol hospital.

The move could force the temporary closure of the entire hospital by April 28.

At a public meeting at Community Church of Sebastopol, the Palm Drive Hospital District board approved a resolution that would cease acute inpatient services and close the emergency department by April 28. The board's lone dissenting vote was cast by Jim Maresca.

Palm Drive Hospital Closing Vote

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Before the board voted for closure, an amendment to the resolution was made that committed the board to making all effort to "provide a continuity of care" in whatever way possible. During the meeting, hospital officials announced that they had filed for bankruptcy protection earlier Monday.

"It was a very difficult night for all of us in the community," said Board President Chris Dawson. "But we're going to make every effort to make this transition process work. We believe what we're doing keeps more options open than not."

About 250 attended the meeting, with many of them pleading that the board delay the vote. Many in the audience were hospital staff, including nurses and doctors.

Dawn Gideon, managing director of Huron Consulting Group, which has been contracted by the hospital to assist in the restructuring and closure processes, said Monday that inpatient services could be closed as soon as April 21 and the emergency department by April 28. She said the public would be notified through the media and public signage at the hospital.

Gideon also said an ambulance would be stationed at the hospital for three months after closure in case a patient shows up needing emergency care. That patient would then be transferred to another local hospital.

Several doctors put forth proposals for taking over operation of the hospital under a foundation model. They urged the board not to close the hospital, even temporarily, because it would cause an exodus of health care professionals.

"We're going to continue to work the board as much as we can to try and make something work," said Dr. Michael Bollinger, a local physician who has a plan that would convert the hospital into an elective surgical hospital for both inpatient and outpatient.


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