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.
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.
"But it makes it more difficult with the hospital closure and declaration of bankruptcy," he said.
Hospital officials said the suspension of Palm Drive's license as a general acute care hospital will require the hospital to shut down for a period while it transitions to a more sustainable health care model that could include an urgent care center and outpatient services.
But many pleaded with the board to delay closure and withdraw the bankruptcy filing.
"What is the hurry? What is a week going to do, or two weeks? Don't make a decision in haste. You're going to be back in this mess," said Sabina Schulz, a registered nurse who works for Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa.
Schulz, a member of the California Nurses Association, attended the meeting in support of fellow nurses at Palm Drive.
Mary Maki-Rich, a Palm Drive emergency department nurse who has worked at the hospital for 33 years, said she and others would have been willing to sacrifice some of their pay.