Palm Drive Hospital moves closer to closure as board considers options

Even as the Palm Drive Hospital board takes steps to evaluate business proposals that would preserve key medical services, hospital administrators are going forward with a plan to shutter the hospital by April 28.

Palm Drive Hospital CEO Thomas Harlan said Wednesday the hospital managers are heading down simultaneous tracks that would close the hospital and then resurrect certain services as soon as possible.

Details of these plans are expected to be described in a letter to the community Thursday or Friday, Harlan said.

"I know there's a lot of anticipation that on April 29 we'll emerge as some brand new hospital," he said, warning that such a scenario is "unlikely" given licensing restrictions and the need to suspend the hospital's license.

On Monday, the Palm Drive Health Care District board voted 4-to-1 to close the hospital and suspend — but not terminate — the license. That day hospital officials also filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

Local residents, hospital staff and affiliated doctors opposed the move, but hospital officials argued that the hospital could no longer operate with so few patients, reduced payments from government and private insurance and increasing competition from health care giants in Santa Rosa.

Huron Consulting Group, which provides operational and financial consulting services to businesses, is helping Palm Drive with the closure process and bankruptcy proceedings.

The first services to close will be elective admissions on April 21, Harlan said. These include patients who are admitted for something other than emergency-related conditions, such as joint replacement surgery.

Doctors who perform these procedures at Palm Drive will have to make arrangements at other area hospitals, Harlan said.

By April 28, he said, the emergency department and beds in the medical surgical unit will be moth-balled.

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