Tensions mount over Palm Drive Hospital shutdown

Last-ditch negotiations to save Palm Drive Hospital will not keep the money-losing Sebastopol facility from closing on Monday, hospital officials said Friday.

On Wednesday, the hospital board voted to enter into negotiations with the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation on a proposal that would have potentially kept the hospital from closing Monday.

But after two days of "constructive and positive" talks, there were too many problems with the proposal to overcome in such a short period of time, hospital board president Chris Dawson said.

"We had a good couple of days," said Dawson. "We've reached that point where we don't believe we're going to do anything at this point that's going to reverse the closure process."

The news comes as one prominent Palm Drive physician threatens civil disobedience next week to keep the hospital open.

Dr. Jim Gude, head of the Sebastopol hospital's intensive care unit, vowed to "occupy Palm Drive" and force the emergency department to remain open.

"If negotiations are not successful, our doctors, nurses and community will occupy Palm Drive Hospital," Gude states in a one-page flier that he is now circulating.

Dawson called distribution of the flier "unfortunate," adding that members of the foundation said they were unaware of it before Gude started circulating it.

"I hope that doesn't happen," Dawson said, referring to a forced staff takeover of the hospital. "It's not the sort of thing that's good for anybody."

Dawson described talks with the foundation as encouraging and said the board would continue negotiations over its proposal. But he said more deliberation is required to ensure the proposal passes muster with state public health officials.

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