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Levine, nurses lobby for delay in Palm Drive vote

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 4/7/14

State Assemblyman Marc Levine met with nurses and labor advocates Saturday to discuss his legislative effort to keep open Sebastopol’s fiscally ailing Palm Drive Hospital.

The San Rafael Democrat said he’s introduced a bill that would allow the hospital to refinance its debt so bonds could be paid off at lower interest rates.

AB582 already has won unanimous, bipartisan support in its first committee hearing and is awaiting approval of the full Senate in the next month or so, he said.

If hospital directors would put off a fateful vote Monday that could close the institution, the bill would have a chance to restore its financial health, he said.

“Palm Drive Hospital is incredibly important to our community,” Levine told a gathering outside the Sebastopol Senior Senior Center.

He said the bill contains an urgency clause that would allow it to take effect immediately, rather than on Jan. 1.

Nurses worried about the possible loss of healthcare and jobs applauded the move to save Palm Drive.

Many, like emergency room nurse Dave Porter, said its closure would put him out of work and leave west county residents with fewer options when they are sick or hurt.

More than 6,800 patients went to the Palm Drive emergency room in 2012.

“It’s just depressing,” Porter said.

Others said Levine’s bill was good but provided only a temporary fix to a systemwide problem.

David McCullough, a former Palm Drive nurse who now works at the Veterans Administration hospital in San Francisco, said financial problems would return without more government subsidies.

“Until we can really get some money, this place is going to go through this over and over,” he said.

However, Levine said his bill would allow money paid through parcel taxes to be directed to healthcare instead of interest. He didn’t say exactly how much money it would generate.

“We’re just trying to free up more money for the hospital,” he said.

Meanwhile, California Nurses Association members are mounting a last-ditch effort to delay Monday’s vote.

A delegation of nurses met with board members to ask for more time. And nurses in red scrubs will distribute leaflets Sunday at the Sebastopol farmers’ market, hoping to drum up public support.

“I don’t believe this is inevitable,” Selden said. “Let’s keep fighting.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

 

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