(Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 11--The Palm Drive Hospital board has scheduled a special meeting Friday to establish criteria for evaluating proposals being put forth by local doctors and hospital supporters to keep the financially troubled Sebastopol facility open.
The board will also consider a resolution to authorize the acceptance of a loan of up to $1.8 million from Sonoma County to plan for post-closure operations. The district's parcel tax revenue would serve as collateral, hospital officials said.
"It's a loan from the County of Sonoma that's based on our tax revenue to fund the transition," said Palm Drive CEO Thomas Harlan.
The special meeting -- the third in less than two weeks -- comes after Palm Drive officials declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy and voted Monday to close the hospital by April 28. Local doctors and hospital supporters are scrambling to find a way to keep some services operating.
Chris Dawson, chairman of the hospital board, said Thursday that the criteria for alternatives to closure should give "a level playing field" to those submitting plans for saving services at the hospital.
"We're moving very fast. There are a lot of people doing a lot of hard work here," Dawson said. "I'm open to anything that the experts and the people we hired and those coming forward say will work."
Meanwhile, the state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would allow Palm Drive Health Care District to refinance debt, lowering interest payments and dedicating more funds to health care services at the Sebastopol hospital.
AB 582, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael was approved unanimously by the Senate. The legislation will undergo a final vote in the Assembly before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Levine has sought to keep the Sebastopol facility open. He called Monday's decision to shutter the 37-bed hospital "alarming."
"Palm Drive Hospital is a critical component of the health care system in West County and is a key economic driver in Sebastopol," Levine said in a statement. "The entire community is now grappling with developing strategies to bring back Palm Drive health care services as soon as possible."
He said refinancing hospital debt would save the health care district $6.5 million over the life of its bonds.
On Monday, west county hospital supporters are scheduled to meet at Community Church of Sebastopol to discuss ways to keep services running until the hospital can be transitioned to a more financially viable model.
Dan Smith, a former Palm Drive board member, said he and other hospital supporters are doing everything they can to keep the emergency room from closing on April 28.
Smith, who once contributed $2 million of his own money to support the hospital, said he and others accept that the hospital in its current form is unsustainable.
But he said more time is needed to devise a "21st century" business model for the hospital.
"Nobody has ever had two weeks to take over a hospital," he said. "We didn't get to where we are today by anyone else's management but the district board's. To do something new, it's got to be under different management, new money, new energy, new programs and it's got to be 21st century."
The special district board meeting Friday is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in the conference room of Palm Drive Hospital. The public meeting Monday will be held at the Community Church of Sebastopol at 5:30 p.m.
(You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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