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Sonoma West Medical Center opened in Sebastopol

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Sonoma West Medical Center opened in Sebastopol

By Vesta Copestakes

Much to the joy and amazement of many, the Sonoma West Medical Center opend at 10am on Friday October 30th with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Until the day before they still weren't sure they would get approval from state inspectors, but trained their staff and got everything ready for the final approval. As soon as the inspectors said YES, the annoucnments went out and the doors flung open.

It's been a year and a half since Palm Drive Hospital closed, much to the chagrin of people in West County who fear the added 15 minutes drive to Santa Rosa could mean the dfference betweeen life and death. Public meetings were jammed with people demanding their local hopital re-open. Red and white signs declaring Open Our Hospital cluttered roadsides. Alternatives like Urgent Care were not sufficient. Concerned residents wanted an Emergency Room in West County.

Communities on the coast are served by one ambulance and volunteer firefighters. Other smaller communities either have no ambulance or just one and mostly volunteer emergency personnel. An emergency helicoptor service signed up coastal residents for service knowing they would have to be transported a longer distance for emergency health issues. On the coast, the average age is 57 with many residents in retirement. When public meetings were held about how to open the hospital, the rooms were packed with elderly people.

Optimistic investors led by Dan Smith kept the energy and money flowing until the mission could be completed. People lined up for and against the hospital opening as past money problems and bankruptcy kept rising to the surface of complaints about placing so much financial burden on tax payers and investors.

An energized opposition group (Taxpayers Against Unfair Taxes - TAUT) formed to have Russian River communities removed from the property tax burden because people feel it's easier to go to Sutter Hospital down River Road than travel through the congested center of Sebastopol to reach Palm Drive Hospital - now called Sonoma West Medical Center (SWMC). Residents on Kaiser Hospital's health plan make up almsot 50% of the taxpayers paying a yearly fee, so many feel this is a fee that gives them no personal benefit.

Just because the hospital is now open doesn't mean all the problems will suddenly disappear. But optimistic people see a future where specific medical services and procedures will help pay for the hospital over the long run.

In the mean time ambulances can once again pull up to the Emergency Room doors and patients who want to stay close to home have their hospital. For many, that's the most important part of this small local hospital. It's close to home. 

Sonoma West Medical Center
501 Petaluma Avenue

Sebastopol, CA 95472
707-823-8511

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