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Palm Drive Hospital board OKs nonprofit talks (w/video)

  • More than 150 people attended a meeting Wednesday at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, where the Palm Drive Health Care District board of directors met to decide the fate of the Sebastopol hospital. (MARTIN ESPINOZA/Press Democrat)

The Palm Drive Hospital board voted Wednesday to proceed with its plans to close the Sebastopol hospital on Monday, even as it entered into last-ditch negotiations with a nonprofit foundation that is desperately seeking to keep the facility open.

The decision came after a two-hour board meeting that drew more than 150 people to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. During the meeting, board members heard impassioned pleas from local residents, emergency personnel, Palm Drive physicians and hospital supporters to keep the facility's doors open.

“Do not be known as the board that killed Palm Drive,” said Dr. Stephen Crane, an emergency department physician at Palm Drive.

“As long as you have a pulse, as long as you have blood pressure, I'm going to fight for you,” Crane said, adding that he expects the same from the hospital board.

Sebastopol Fire Chief Bill Braga asked the Palm Drive Health Care District board of directors to consider the impact on public safety resources. He said the local fire department responds to an average of three medical emergencies each day. If the hospital closes, first responders will be forced to transport patients to hospitals in Santa Rosa.

“I lose one to two firefighters each time (patients) are transported to Santa Rosa,” Braga said. “That would be detrimental to my department. ... On behalf of public safety, I urge the board, please, I urge the board to accept the proposal from the foundation. I think it's the right thing to do.”

The special meeting was called to consider two proposals to keep the hospital open. Most of the meeting was spent discussing a proposal submitted by the nonprofit Palm Drive Health Care Foundation, Dr. Jim Gude and former hospital board president Dan Smith.

A second proposal, by Sebastopol orthopedics surgeon Dr. Michael Bollinger, was dismissed because it did not meet board criteria.

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