Sonoma West Medical Center hospital puts off closure talks, plans fundraising campaign

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Sonoma West Medical Center has put off deliberations over whether to shut down the Sebastopol hospital, opting instead to go forward with aggressive fundraising aimed at paying down part of the facility’s $5 million in debt.

SWMC’s board of directors had planned to meet Friday and discuss whether to begin drawing up plans to close the cash-strapped facility. Barbara Vogelsang, SWMC’s chief nursing officer and COO, said in an email the SWMC board met Friday but “there was no motion made to discuss a closure of the hospital.”

Any such plan would have to go before the Palm Drive Health Care District, which owns the hospital and supports it financially.

Vogelsang said hospital officials and their supporters plan to organize an array of fundraising events, including a possible golf tournament and a charitable fun run. The hospital is also requesting personal donations. Vogelsang said the facility continues to make efforts to decrease costs and improve billing collections to become sustainable.

Officials say it costs about $1.8 million to run the hospital each month, a figure that includes operational costs, payroll and current bills. In May, the hospital collected almost $1.9 million, she said.

But the hospital and its supporters say debt payments cripple the hospital’s ability to break even. Those payments totaled more than $632,000 in May and are expected to drop to $250,000 this month and in July before doubling this fall.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213.

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