Harlan steps down from Palm Drive as district continues to explore options

SEBASTOPOL -- The Palm Drive Health Care District announced on Thursday that it has received and accepted Tom Harlan's resignation as CEO of Palm Drive Hospital as the district looks to find a more appropriate model for the shuttered hospital.

[caption id="attachment_90672" align="alignright" width="300"] Tom Harlan[/caption]

The district board is set to meet tonight to discuss proposals from the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation and other possible strategies about either re-opening the hospital or other future uses for the facility. The hospital was shuttered April 28 after declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy for the second time in seven years, having seen its patient volumes dwindle while debt mounted.

"This was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made," Mr. Harlan said in a statement. "I love this hospital -- and know that our board is fully committed to its reinvention and reemergence as an innovative health care organization that is both relevant to community health needs and financially sustainable for the long term."

Mr. Harlan and the district board have said the hospital could re-emerge as a more nimble entity, such as urgent care and outpatient services, but that operating a full acute-care hospital is simply too costly for so few patients. St. Joseph Health has said it might have interest in Palm Drive as an urgent care facility, similar to what it operates in Windsor, Rohnert Park and southwest Santa Rosa, but not as an acute-care hospital.

Mr. Harlan was hired almost two years ago. While bankruptcy proved to be unavoidable, the district board still praised Mr. Harlan's efforts, which included enhancing programs and associated revenue while streamlining and "rightsizing" hospital operations, according to the board. The board also cited Palm Drive's clinical quality under Mr. Harlan's tenure, including being recognized by Consumer Reports magazine as the fifth highest ranked hospital in the United States for Patient Safety.

 Mr. Harlan took over Palm Drive Hospital after a 40-year career in health care leadership, including his roles as president and chief administrative officer of John Muir Health in Concord, CEO of the Chinese Hospital and Chinese Community Health Plan (HMO) in San Francisco, and vice president and other senior executive positions at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

During his tenure in the industry, Mr. Harlan has been called on to help institutions during difficult transitions. It was that expertise that brought him to Palm Drive. 

"As challenging as this has been, Tom has been recognized by our physicians, nurses, hospital staff and the community for his dedication and grace during this very difficult time," board President Chris Dawson said in a statement. "We appreciate Tom's focus, expertise, tireless energy, and kindness over the past two years and wish him the very best."


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