As President of the Sonoma West Medical Foundation, I have been outspoken and passionate about the critical need for access to full service medical care in West County, particularly as local hospitals were either being taken over by corporate medicine or closing altogether. About 35 years ago, I became keenly aware of the problems commuting presented in an emergency after Sebastopol’s Palm Drive Hospital saved my life.
Not so long ago, our beloved local hospital’s reincarnation as Sonoma West Medical Center (SWMC) was the only care available during our most recent flood and two catastrophic fires. In the Coffey Park fire its dedicated staff worked on burn victims while their own houses were engulfed in flames. A year and a half ago I became very worried when our only local Urgent Care was shut down without warning at what is now Sonoma Specialty Hospital (SSH)—now a Long Term Acute Care facility. Despite its sale-contingent requirement to maintain Urgent Care for our community, after closing its ER, SSH still has not re-opened its Urgent Care. This is a serious situation given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on access to care for regular or urgent medical needs.
Recently at 4:45 pm my concern about finding local medical care in an emergency came home to roost. I suffered a freak accident on my Sebastopol farm resulting in a large gaping head wound that was bleeding profusely. I went to the newly opened Sebastopol Urgent Care at 555 Petaluma Avenue, knowing that it was open 7 days a week. I experienced the most professional and caring attention I have ever received in Sonoma County during the almost 50 years I have lived here.
Drs. Elizabeth Flower and Kathleen Whisman immediately brought me into their newly furnished treatment room after determining I was fully vaccinated with no COVID-19 symptoms. They quickly stopped the bleeding, noting that had I waited the 2 hours or more it would have taken to get to my regular care provider due to stop-and-go rush hour traffic, I could have “bled out.”
Both doctors have been Emergency Room and General Practice physicians for decades, and are longtime West County residents with a deep commitment to our community.
Dr. Flower’s experience in plastic surgery meant that what would have become a nasty scar now will be barely visible. Their compassion and kindness soon brought me out of shock, and their significant professional knowledge of trauma injuries was very reassuring. The procedure took well over two hours including a thorough examination to make sure I had no other injuries, addressing and treating my trauma-related high blood pressure, monitoring me until they determined it was safe for me to go home. They made sure I had proper follow up care and they texted and called me several times that evening and the next day to find out how I was doing.
In keeping with our West County ethos, their practice is holistic and they care about all aspects of our lives.
Two days later, after they checked my wound and changed my dressings, I asked if I could join them and ride in a wheelchair at our Saturday Apple Blossom Parade, to advertise that I was a very satisfied patient. I was eager to share my positive experience with our neighbors and to let people know we now have this “jewel” in our community staffed by two physicians who are compassionate and particularly sensitive to the needs of women, as they are the only female physicians in Sebastopol. I carried a sign to that effect in the parade and proudly sported my bandaged head, black eye, and happy smile amid staff from Sebastopol Urgent Care.
In light of the current pandemic, Urgent Care facilities like this one should be federally funded and established across the U.S. to relieve overcrowded hospitals, particularly in rural areas where small hospitals have been forced to shut down.
Sebastopol Urgent Care accepts Medicare and most insurance.
Both doctors also have “concierge” practices which means you pay a little more but get 24/7 access to a doctor for treatment, no-waiting appointments, even a few house calls, if necessary. When I was young, our family doctor lived nearby and as kids we always knew he would walk across the street to help us. That kind of personal treatment, knowing that you are truly cared for, is priceless. The care and attention I experienced with Dr. Flower and Dr. Whisman and their staff brought back those fond childhood memories before corporate medicine made patients an anonymous number and overworked, exhausted doctors were judged by how many people they could see in a day. And with the COVID-19 pandemic many hospitals are short staffed and unable to offer routine care and appointments. Now, if you can even get an appointment, or after waiting hours in an ER waiting room you rarely get more than 10 to 15 minutes and you are lucky if the doctors know anything about you. Plus, we all worry about the prevalence and potential spread of the COVID-19 virus in crowded hospitals!
West County is truly fortunate to have quality, personal, caring medical attention for day-to-day and urgent medical needs.
Sebastopol Urgent Care and its doctors can be reached at (707) 509-5961 or www.sebastopoluc.com. Open 7 days a week (8 am -7 pm, M-F; 11 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday and most holidays), at 555 Petaluma Avenue, Suite B, Sebastopol, CA 95472 just north of the Long Term Acute Care hospital.
Please don’t hesitate to share this article and let your friends and neighbors know about our own newly opened Sebastopol Urgent Care.