Just one week after the October 30 ribbon cutting ceremony in which the Sonoma West Medical Center made history by becoming the first community hospital to close and reopen, the new “no-wait” emergency room is already seeing as many or more patients each day as Palm Drive Hospital.
According to the SWMC, as of Friday night, November 6, 129 people had entered the ER and been seen by a doctor in five minutes or less. A total of 242 people have used the ER, diagnostics, labs, or been admitted, and the first surgeries have been scheduled.
So ends an 18-month long health care crisis for many of the 60,000 residents of West Sonoma County, who found themselves without an emergency room when, after 70 years, Palm Drive Hospital closed on April 28, 2014. With Sutter reducing the number of emergency room beds from 16 to 10 when it moved to its new location, and the closing of Palm Drive, wait times for emergency care at Santa Rosa’s hospitals have skyrocketed. As reported here in the Sonoma Independent, at least two local residents have died, their families believe, because of the hospital closing, while countless others, especially less mobile seniors and disabled, suffered hardship and enormous logistical challenges.
Marc Levine, the California Assembly Member in whose district the new hospital is situated, explained, “Documented studies show that lives are saved when the public has access to a hospital emergency room.
Particularly for the people in West County, the Sonoma West Medical Center is the closest hospital and will undoubtedly make a difference between life, death or serious permanent disabilities.”
At the ribbon-cutting event, Sebastopol’s Police Chief Jeffrey Weaver looked euphoric, telling people that the closing of the hospital was among the hardest experiences of his 20-year career. “I am ecstatic,” Weaver beamed. “Having been here on the day that it closed: that was tragic and you saw bad outcomes. This is the inverse of that: this is wonderful and you see nothing but good outcomes. I couldn’t be happier.”
Weaver praised the Herculean 18-month, $10 million effort led by Dan Smith and his wife Joan Marler to reopen Palm Drive as the revitalized, competitively positioned Sonoma West Medical Center (“SWMC”). “The work it took to do this came together at every level,” Weaver explained. “You’ve got the business community that brought their money and financial acumen. The staff, and the management, and the board, bringing their medical expertise. It wouldn’t have happened without any of those pieces. Only this community could have pulled this off. That’s why it’s never been done before.”
Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, also on hand for the opening, agreed. “A lot of us in the community had doubts whether we could ever get to this point. It’s been amazing; a remarkable community feat. I feel an immense amount of gratitude for those individuals who believed this would happen and who continued to work even through the most incredible obstacles.”
Carrillo believes the five minute “door-to”doc” policy of the SWMC’s Emergency Room will be a winner. “As a new father thinking about the health of my baby and the health of my family, a no-wait ER—you just couldn’t ask for more.”
Police Chief Weaver says that the hospital’s opening will have additional benefits to emergency service providers in the area. This includes allowing police officers to stay local again, instead of finding themselves, as they had every week during the past year and a half, needing to take people to Santa Rosa hospitals. “Just last week,” he explained, “we had a medical crisis with three 14 year olds who were beyond drunk. They had to be taken to Sutter. So we had to send one of our police officers, rather than having them here in town, where they are available to respond. When you’re as small a force as we are, that matters. “
In addition to its ambitious No-Wait Emergency Room, the Sonoma West Medical Center now provides: Cardiopulmonary, Clinical Laboratory and Pathology, Emergency, Endoscopy, Hospitalist, Intensive Care, Medical Imaging, Restorative Care [which includes Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Respiratory Therapy] and Surgical Services.
Regardless of insurance provider, those with emergencies can access the no wait ER 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Potential patients with existing health conditions can pre-register for services in the future any weekday at the hospital. The SWMC now has helpful “patient educators” available to answer questions about insurance and doctors, by calling 707-823-8511.