About Palm Drive

The Palm Drive Health Care District is West County’s community health resource. We are committed to providing quality health care services to all residents of western Sonoma County. The publicly-owned Palm Drive Health Care District own Sonoma West Medical Center (formerly Palm Drive Hospital), which is operated by a separate non-profit entity.

The District was formed in April 2000 and is a government entity of the State of California. It serves 50,000 people who live in western Sonoma County, including the communities of Sebastopol, Graton, Forestville, Bodega Bay, Carmet, Salmon Creek, Jenner, Duncan’s Mills, Guerneville, Occidental, Freestone, Rio Nido, Monte Rio, Guernewood Park, Summerhome, and Mirabel Park.

The District is managed by five publicly elected members who serve on the Board of Directors for a four-year term. Board meetings are open to the public and are usually held the 1st Monday of every month at 5:30 p.m. Check this website for meeting times and location.


Pictured (l-r) are Al Helwig, Congressman Don Clausen and Martha Helwig at the groundbreaking for Palm Drive Hospital in 1974.

PDHCD traces its origins to 1941, when a local nurse, Martha Helwig, saw the need for a hospital in western Sonoma County and, along with her husband, Al, undertook to build one. The original site they chose for their new hospital was atop a palm-lined drive overlooking the Laguna, north of the hospital’s present site. The new hospital boasted 14 beds with four private rooms and three wards, an operating room, and a delivery room.

The the 1950s, the small, rural hospital was offering a full range of medical, surgical, and obstetrical care. Al Carrion, the Helwigs’ son-in-law, served as hospital administrator until he retired in 1976.

In 1965, Palm Drive Hospital was accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. Five years later, Palm Drive Hospital was acquired by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), a large hospital chain based in Tennessee. The new owners invested ten million dollars to build the present facility. In the 1980′s, HCA transferred ownership of the hospital to a new entity, Health Trust, which was organized to operate smaller, less profitable hospitals.

In 1977, the hospital opens its 24-hour emergency room.

In 1998, Health Trust closed Palm Drive Hospital, spurring the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce to organize the Health Economic Development Committee, which immediately creates the West County Health Care Foundation to raise funds to purchase the hospital.  As time runs short, a group of local citizens form “35 for Palm Drive”, a Limited Liability Corporation, to raise the remaining capital.

In 2000, the citizens of west Sonoma County voted to form the Palm Drive Health Care District to manage the hospital and to approve General Obligation bonds to buy the hospital and make capital improvements for a total investment of $5.9 million. These bonds and the formation of the District received overwhelming public support; 91% of those voting chose to support the new PDHCD. Four years later, voters once again chose overwhelmingly to support their hospital district with a permanent $155 parcel tax for ongoing support of the hospital.

In 2014, despite continued strong community support, a difficult economic environment forced Palm Drive Hospital to close temporarily while it reorganized as Sonoma West Medical Center.

Our Mission

Palm Drive Health Care District exists to deliver access to  quality, compassionate health services responsive to the needs of our District.

Our Vision

PDHCD’s vision is to create engagement with optimum health and wellness within our diverse communities.

California Health Care Districts

PDHCD is one of 78 health care districts in California and a member of the Association of California Healthcare Districts (ACHD). Health care districts are authorized by the State Legislature under the Local Hospital District Act, which enables communities like west Sonoma County to form a Special District and impose property taxes to support the construction and operation of hospitals. Residents in these Districts elect local Boards to oversee the spending of their local tax dollars in pursuit of improved community health. The meetings of these publicly elected officials are open meetings subject to the provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act, providing for public input and a high degree of transparency relative to the Boards’ decisions.

Palm Drive Heath Care District owns Sonoma West Medical Center, formerly Palm Drive Hospital, which is operated by a separate non-profit entity. Two of the hospital governing body’s five member are members of the PDHCD board. In the future, the district plans to offer a variety of health-related services ranging from health and wellness education to community grant making, chronic disease management education, and senior services, among others.