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Palm Drive Health Care District board votes to approve hospital opening

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Palm Drive Health Care District board votes to approve hospital opening

By Vesta Copestakes

After several hours of a standing room only meeting, the board of directors of the Palm Drive Health Care District (PDHD) voted unanimously to approve the management services agreement (see below) with Sonoma West Medical Center (SWMC), contingent upon further approval of revised bylaws for the district and bylaws for the proposed governing body. The room erupted into applause with a standing ovation that carried into the halls where people were seated, listening to the meeting over a speaker.

Sonoma West Medical Center funding sign at entrance to hospitalThe majority of people present were clearly supportive. Public speakers mentioned the need for an emergency room close to where they live. As in previous meetings, people had stories of having an emergency room in West County saved critical time getting ill and injured people medical attention.  

But not all speakers were supportive. Many feel they are not being represented by the district and are not taken into consideration when decisions are made. The parcel tax placed on landowners several years ago will still be in effect for up to 15 more years. For people less likely to go to SWMC because of distance, convenience or because they are members of Kaiser, the tax is costing them for something they won't use.

There is a group of people along the Lower Russian River communities who are considering a ballot measure to detach from the district so they will no longer be taxed. Many of these people would be inclined to go to Sutter or Kaiser for emergencies because both hospitals are a straight shot east along River Road. Going to SWMC is a complex maze of roads, traffic and traffic signals through downtown Sebastopol.

To address lower Russian River communities questions, the PDHCD will be holding a special board meeting on Thursday, March 19th at 5:30pm at the Money Rio Community Center just west of the Monte Rio bridge. People are encouraged to attend to get answers to their questions and to feel that the board hears their concerns.

In the mean time work is being done on the hospital with the intent of having it ready for public tours starting March 14th. SWMC is footing all the construction costs on money provided by Dan Smith and private funders. They are seeking more investors and donations to get the work competed to open in late April with final approval.

Sonoma West Medical Center private roomsFrom wiring to equipment and furniture, the hospital building is getting a major renovation in order to bring the entire operation up to modern standards. Of the many ways this hospital intends to stand out, so that patients from outside the district will also use the facility, range from a health-conscious menu to single occupancy rooms. They are also establishing a robot doctor service for after hours when staff physicians are off-duty so that nursing personnel have experts in the field available off-site for advice.

Below is a copy of the Management Service Agreement for people seeking a higher level of detail.

March 9, 2015

MANAGEMENT SERVICES AGREEMENT SIGNED

The Palm Drive Health Care District, which owns Palm Drive Hospital, voted on Monday to approve a management services agreement with a local nonprofit corporation, Sonoma West Medical Center Inc. The vote of approval came in front of a packed room of West County citizens who have actively campaigned to “Open Our Hospital.”

The management services agreement is a major step toward reopening the Sebastopol hospital. It authorizes the nonprofit to operate and manage the refurbished and upgraded hospital, which will be renamed Sonoma West Medical Center. The Medical Center is expected to open next month, a year after the District declared bankruptcy and closed the hospital.

Raymond T. Hino MA, FACHE and CEO, said “I am truly gratified that we have found a working agreement which all parties support and which will let us work together in harmony to open our hospital.”

As a result of Monday’s vote, Sonoma West Medical Center Inc., will take on responsibility for reopening the hospital.  Once the hospital reopens, it will take on day-to-day operations, including hiring staff, contracting with physicians, and entering into contracts with vendors. Other features of the management services agreement include:

*The hospital will be operated and managed by SWMC Inc. at no added cost to the taxpayers;

*The non-profit will be answerable to an oversight committee composed of all five of the District Board members, five members nominated by the SWMC Inc. Board of Directors, and two medical staff, and one community member.

*Hino, former CEO of Mendocino Coast District Hospital, who has been active in getting the hospital ready to reopen, will continue as CEO.

The Sonoma West Medical Center will offer a comprehensive model of medical care.  In addition to the former services of an emergency and acute care hospital, the Medical Center is adding outpatient “centers of excellence” in specialty “Institutes” to address diabetes, arthritis, headache, memory loss, stroke, incontinence, joint replacement and aging.  It will be a major employer for the West County area, with more than 100 employees

The reopened hospital will serve both the West County community and the 101 Corridor with a “no wait” Emergency Room. “The standard of care will be five minutes from the door to a doctor”, said Rodney Look, M.D., who will direct emergency services.

“It was the loss of the Emergency Room that galvanized the community into a campaign to “Open Our Hospital,” said Gail Thomas, president of Sonoma West Medical Foundation, which is raising funds for the new Medical Center. “More than 2000 “Open Our Hospital” signs were taken by citizens and placed on their lawns and roadsides.” The Foundation was formerly known as the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation.  

Another new feature of the Medical Center is the Institute for Integrative Medicine, which will provide a range of services including nutrition, massage, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies.  Integrative medicine will be available for outpatients and for persons recovering in the hospital.

Merry Edwards, a respected West County winery owner, said, "It is undeniably clear that we need this hospital, and SWMC is a model which I believe can work. That is why I have invested in this effort by becoming a board member and making a multi-year donation."

Chris Thompson, owner/manager of Weeks Well and Drilling and a member of the SWMC Board of Directors, said, “SWMC will bring a new standard of excellence in medicine to our community in a financially sustainable model.”

Public tours of the newly remodeled facility will be available beginning on Saturday March 14 at 2 p.m. and at 3 p.m., and will continue every Saturday at those times until opening.  No reservations are necessary. 

Raymond T. Hino, MPA, FACHE
Sonoma West Medical Center
(707) 829-4383