Sonoma County Residents to Vote on Ballot Initiative to Fund Palm Drive ED
Residents in rural west Sonoma County tomorrow will vote on a ballot initiative that would keep the Sebastopol-based Palm Drive Hospital emergency department open, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Titled Measure D, the initiative would finance the ED's operations through a tax requiring area homeowners to pay $60 each year over the next five years. The tax would generate $1.6 million annually for the facility. The hospital, which recorded 9,400 emergency room visits last year, began the current fiscal year with a $1.5 million deficit. Licensed for 49 beds, the facility does not have the revenue to continue providing emergency care to the 60,000 residents of Sebastopol and the surrounding area. The Chronicle reports that Palm Drive's financial difficulties began in 1998, when then owner Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. announced plans to close the facility. Local residents "quickly" raised $3 million to purchase the hospital and its grounds and turned operations over to the not-for-profit West County Healthcare Foundation. Local health care advocates say that low reimbursements from Medicare and private health care companies have contributed to Palm Drive's financial problems. The Chronicle reports that residents have not voiced opposition to the tax, and no argument opposing Measure D appeared on the sample ballot. If Palm Drive's ED closes, residents will have to travel 12 miles for emergency care, and some residents fear that the entire hospital will close if the ED shuts down (Pena, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.