Following a decision by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to table a sales tax that would have helped save embattled Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in San Pablo, the hospital’s registered nurses held a picket Tuesday.
They are demanding the county assume operation of the medical center and retain it as a full service hospital.
Anything less than a full service hospital would abandon residents of West Contra Costa County and expose hundreds of thousands of area residents to the threat of no emergency and hospital care in their community, according to the RNs.
“As a nurse I have served the West Contra Costa community for 40 years,” said Charlene Arrington, ICU RN at Doctors Medical Center. “DMC provides essential hospital care for which Contra Costa County is culpable and responsible to provide to all residents.
The picket line was held July 1, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Doctors Medical Center, 2000 Vale Rd. in San Pablo.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United says the hospital serves many indigent patients, and a closure would have a disparate and disproportionate impact on the health of African Americans and senior citizens in violation of their civil rights.
As the only provider of advanced cardiac care for heart attack victims in West County, closure of the hospital would leave the area with only 15 of the county’s 242 emergency room beds – and in sharp contrast with East County with higher income residents and more hospital care.
“I hate to say this, but I know that if this was going on in Orinda, this wouldn’t be happening,” Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles recently told the Contra Costa Times. “A solution would be found.”
Some have proposed that the hospital be downsized with limited service, such as a standalone emergency room. But that would be in direct contravention of state law that requires a facility with emergency services to at least also include other hospital services needed to accompany an ER, especially an operating room and intensive care services.
To run a limited hospital with an ER in name only would require specific enabling state legislation, “but that would do a great disservice to those residents of West Contra Costa County who need a full hospital, not a shell of a hospital, especially in a medically underserved region where there have been repeated oil refinery accidents,” said CNA co-president Deborah Burger, RN.
Even without a sales tax increase, the county has the resources to operate DMC, said CNA noting a recent report of a 6.5 percent uptick in county finances, and the added need for patient care as a result of enrollments under the Affordable Care Act as additional indications that the county should intervene to keep the hospital open.