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Community aids Healdsburg hospital

  • Healdsburg emergency personnel, from left, Laura Villarreal, Robert Salisbury, Danny Workman, Fire Capt. Jason Boaz and Police Chief Susan Jones stage a demonstration at a fund-raiser for Healdsburg District Hospital. Mark Blankenship, hospital operating room manager, plays the victim.

Healdsburg Police Chief Susan Jones yelled out that she had established a heartbeat.

The patient, Mark Blankenship, lay sprawled on the lawn Sunday evening outside Lambert Bridge Winery with his shirt torn open and a defibrillator at his side.

Dr. Doug Pile, a family practitioner in Healdsburg, sipped casually from his glass of cabernet. Then he nodded approvingly.

Blankenship and Jones were taking part in a demonstration to highlight the importance of new medical technology.

The staged spectacle was part of a fund-raising event at the winery to help Healdsburg District Hospital shore up its finances and continue with renovations and expansions. About 150 attendees paid $1,000 a plate for Sunday's catered dinner at the winery.

"I think we have a community that is really behind our hospital," Pile said.

Northern Sonoma County voters raised taxes in 2004 to fund the hospital, boosting an annual parcel tax from $85 to $150, and private donors have chipped in more than $9.3 million since 2006. The funding has allowed the hospital to build a new emergency room, update the intensive care unit and replace outdated medical equipment said Evan Rayner, chief executive officer of the hospital.

It recently purchased a medical robot that allows specialists from around the world to examine patients in Healdsburg.

"The community's generosity empowers us to provide higher power health care," Rayner said. "We are very, very thankful."

Rayner said the parcel tax increase and the donations have helped the hospital staunch its losses and end 2006 with $1 million in net income. The hospital is on pace to end 2007 with a net income of $2 million, Rayner said.

Sunday's event was expected to raise $600,000 to $700,000, said Greg Wilcox, managing partner of Lambert Bridge Winery. Proceeds will go to Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County, which is attempting to raise a minimum of $14.5 million for the hospital. It needed $5 million going into Sunday's event to reach its goal, said Tobi Ferguson, executive director of the foundation.

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