History Timeline

1905-2020 History Timeline Details

1905 Dr. Seawell Establishes Care Dr. J. Walter Seawell operated a small private hospital at 211 North Street. It eventually became what is now Healdsburg District Hospital. He served as the city’s public health officer until his death in 1937, at age 58.
1908 Hospital Founded Healdsburg has had a hospital since 1908, when Dr. J.W. Seawell opened a five-room sanitarium in his home office on North Street, the current home of the Camellia Inn, a bed-and-breakfast establishment.
1920 Moved to new location Seawell moved his sanitarium to the T. S. Merchant building at the corner of Lincoln and Johnson Streets in 1920, combining it with another facility run by Dr. E.E. Sohler. Seawell and Sohler were helped by Nercilla Ames Harlan Jones, a former Army nurse, and her husband Charles Jones, a former Army medic.
1929 Fire Destroys Hospital The Jones’ operated Healdsburg General Hospital until 1929, when it was severely damaged by a fire. All seven of the current patients were evacuated to a nearby home.   The community reacted quickly. Ira H. Rosenberg offered the old Rosenberg residence at East and North Streets (site of the current Jordan Oil and Gas Company building) as a temporary hospital.
October 1929 New Larger Hospital Opens A community fund-raising drive netted $50,000 from 45 citizens in just 10 days for a new facility, at the same location, Lincoln and Johnson Streets.  The building was complete in October, 1929. The one-story, concrete, fireproof building was considered state-of-the-art. It had 10 private rooms, two-bed wards, a room signaling system, a surgery, a delivery room, nursery, offices, solarium, kitchen and dining rooms, and an emergency ambulance entrance.   It was one of the first hospitals of its size to be inspected and recognized by the American College of Surgeons.   Nercilla Jones was its director for many years.The hospital capacity expanded from 14 to 25 patients, and served the ill from as far away as Annapolis and Boonville.
1968 Hospital Sold The original 45 donors and their heirs sold the hospital to Chanco Medical and Electronic Enterprises in 1968. Chanco started to look for a new location for the overcrowded and outdated facility, then considered scrapping the expansion.
1969 Search for New Site Administrator Duane Kenward and Nurse Ramona DeBenedetti (like Nercilla Jones before her) helped rally support for the new hospital at new location. Administrator Duane Kenward and Nurse Ramona DeBenedetti (like Nercilla Jones before her) helped rally support for the new project. The work began in 1969 on four acres of land on University Street
1972 Current Site Opens The hospital held a grand opening in its present location in January, 1972.   The old facility was sold and converted to offices for Duff Chiropractic.  At the time, the hospital was once again considered to be the best of its type. With 52 beds and plans for up to 150 more, the hospital had two surgeries, high-tech therapeutic and diagnostic equipment, laboratories, a pharmacy, intensive care and maternity units, kitchen and dining, an emergency department, and much more.
1975-1995 Ownership Changes The new hospital went through a series of owners over the next two decades. Chanco merged with American Medical Enterprises to become American Medical International. AMI built new doctor’s offices nearby, and expanded the hospital’s technological capabilities. In 1988, AMI helped 15 of its hospitals form an employee-owned firm, EPIC, which was eventually acquired by Health Trust in 1993.    In 1995, healthcare giant Columbia/HCA acquired the hospital.
1998 Threatened Closure Columbia/HCA was on a rapid growth pattern, and overextended itself. In March 1998, Columbia/HCA officials announced that, unless a buyer was found for the hospital, it would close in 90 days.   At that time, although the hospital served patients from throughout the north county, it was still primarily considered to be a Healdsburg institution.   Dan Rose, a Healdsburg physician nearing retirement, decided not to let the hospital close.   A number of groups were formed to investigate buying the hospital from Columbia/HCA, but Rose’s group got the blessing to negotiate exclusively with Columbia/HCA.   The community raised $500,000 by the end of October, 1998, and the purchase was completed the following month, using the city of Healdsburg’s tax-exempt bond capability. A new Chief Executive Officer, Ed Bland, was hired.
2000 Struggles Continue Nuestro Hospital, as the new entity was called, struggled to find its focus in a rapidly-shifting healthcare environment.   In July 2000, Bland announced that the hospital was in good shape.   He was wrong. An accounting error surfaced a few weeks later, and Bland reported that the hospital instead would finish the year $2 million in debt.    The alarms kept going off. Bland and Rose (Chairman of the Nuestro board) looked at every option – they discussed mergers or buyouts with Memorial and Sutter Hospitals, and they looked at whether to close various departments.
2001 Drastic Steps Required Nuestro took drastic steps in March 2001, closing the maternity ward, the intensive care unit, and two-thirds of the beds. That move helped cut costs, but had an unanticipated consequence. As doctors sent their intensive care patients elsewhere, they took other procedures as well, and the hospital continued to lose money.
November 2001 Hospital District Formed That spring, the hospital announced a “make or break” strategy, a plan to form a public hospital district and ask voters to tax themselves to help keep the hospital open.   The planned district was drawn widely, including the communities of Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Windsor.   In November 2001, the new district was approved by more than 80 percent of the voters. Rose said that a lot of hard work is still ahead. “This buys us time while structural changes in health care are put in place,” he said.
2002 District Buys Hospital The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors appointed the five-member North Sonoma County Hospital District board in January 2002, and the district proceeded to borrow $2.5 million from the county to buy the hospital from Nuestro through eminent domain.
2003 On the Brink In early 2003, the hospital teetered on the brink once again. “If we maintain business as usual, we’ll be going out of business in mid-March,” said Chief Financial Officer Dan Hull in February of that year. Hospital leaders developed a “12-Step Turnaround Plan.”    The plan called for a series of 12 initiatives, which include increasing surgical services, cost-cutting, asking the taxpayers for help, and securing $3 million in emergency financing, through fundraising and a loan from the county. “This started out as a business plan … now we’re calling it a turnaround plan,” said Iversen.
April 2004 Voters Increase Funding A plan to ask voters to increase the parcel tax from $85 to $125 in November 2003 was postponed, and the district eventually settled on $150 as the new parcel tax figure. The voters approved the increase as part of the  April 13, 2004 ballot Measure.