Cash-strapped California hospital considers closure

Sebastopol, Calif.-based Sonoma West Medical Center is facing a financial crisis due to its high debt payments, according to The Press Democrat.

Sonoma West Medical Center's cash flow has improved in recent months, but the debt payments keep the hospital from breaking even, Barbara Vogelsang, MSN, RN, Sonoma West Medical Center chief nursing officer and COO, told The Press Democrat.

She said the hospital collected nearly $1.9 million in May, which covered the facility's $1.8 million in operating costs, payroll and current bills. The hospital's financial troubles stem from debt payments, which totaled $632,000 in May, according to the report.

The debt payments are expected to drop to $250,000 in June and July before doubling this fall.

"It's incredibly frustrating to be this close to being OK and having that old debt looming over our head," Ms. Vogelsang said. "We've made changes to a lot of our staffing, eliminated a few positions and decreased our overtime cost by one half."

Ms. Vogelsang said the hospital board plans to decide this week whether to discuss the possibility of closing the hospital with leaders from the Palm Drive Health Care District, which owns the hospital. The move comes after the healthcare district put out a notice last month seeking a buyer for Sonoma West Medical Center.

In addition to the debt payments, the hospital is facing a lawsuit filed by Anthem and its affiliates in nine states. The insurer alleges the hospital was involved in a toxicology lab testing scheme. 

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