On a turnout of 20%, 7,635 voters backed the demand that Lincolnshire HA chairman Brenda Sills and chief executive Richard Jeavons resign. Only 117 supported the pair.
Mike Williams, incoming mayor of Grantham and a member of the district council, borrowed the tactics of 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther, nailing the referendum results to a tree in the health authority's grounds. The letter outlining the results was signed by council chief executive Chris Farmer.
The£3,000 plebiscite was sparked by the closure of Grantham Hospital's children's ward and maternity unit. The hospital became notorious after nurse Beverley Allitt killed several children in her care in the early 1990s.
He said: 'The ballot result came as no surprise. The question itself did not go the heart of the issue.' He added that other NHS managers in low population areas are now looking to follow the authority's model for paediatric services.