(Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 23--The Palm Drive Hospital board is scheduled to meet Wednesday to publicly review proposals that seek to keep the cash-strapped facility from closing on April 28.
The only item on the agenda is board review of two proposals to define future services and operations at the hospital site. The noon meeting will be held at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 282 S. High St.
The special session of the Palm Drive Health Care District board of directors comes as hospital officials take concrete steps to close the facility by the end of the month. The hospital has already shuttered its outpatient lab services, is no longer scheduling elective inpatient surgeries and has closed the intensive care unit, or ICU.
Hospital officials say Palm Drive can no longer operate following a decline in overnight patients, reduced payments from government and private insurance, and increasing competition from health care giants in Santa Rosa. They say the hospital must close and be resurrected as something else.
Earlier this month, the hospital filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the second time since 2007. A bankruptcy judge approved a $450,000 emergency loan from the county, which will help the hospital pay for operations and payroll until a May 1 hearing.
The most extensive plan received by the hospital is spearheaded by Dr. Jim Gude, former district board president Dan Smith and the nonprofit Palm Drive Health Care Foundation. The plan would turn over management of the hospital to the foundation and realign hospital offerings to outpatient services.
The plan would essentially mothball the 35-bed inpatient hospital ward and restructure the five-bed ICU to have three inpatient beds and two ICU beds. That and other moves would reduce operational expenses by 40 percent while only reducing revenue by 20 percent.
A second proposal was made by Dr. Michael Bollinger, a prominent Sebastopol orthopedic surgeon who operates at the hospital. Bollinger's proposal would lease the hospital for $1 a year and also would close down the hospital ward.
The group initially would offer an ICU, radiology, lab and outpatient services and specialty surgery center with at least five beds. Management of the hospital would be outsourced to a third-party contractor, and the physicians group would have only 10 full-time staff members, plus additional part-time staff.
Some supporters of proposal by Gude, Smith and the foundation are concerned the plan will not be given serious consideration by a district board that appears determined to close the taxpayer-subsidized hospital.
"I'm very concerned that they're not listening to the public's wishes to keep the hospital open and the people who pay the taxes to keep the hospital open," said Gail Thomas, secretary of the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation.
"The foundation and the people we've spoken to who are employed by the hospital are very excited about the proposal the physicians have put forth and the opportunity to provide a wide range of services to west county," said Thomas.
Chris Dawson, president of the hospital board, said board members have not yet made up their minds on the proposals. The two proposals, which were reviewed publicly Friday by a board committee, have now undergone additional review by hospital administrators and consultants.
"I can't comment on rumors," he said in an email. "We have not received the report from the committee, or from the staff. I am keeping an open mind, as I imagine my board colleagues are. This is a complex process and the board has legal, fiduciary and health and safety responsibilities that need to be considered."
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