The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is criticizing Contra Costa County for its lackluster response to keeping Doctors Medical Center (DMC) open as a full-service hospital following an announcement that the hospital will no longer be accepting ambulances, and beds would be capped at fifty.
Emergency ambulance traffic to Doctors Medical Center stopped Thursday at 7 a.m., five days earlier than previously announced.
The hospital had planned to begin re-routing ambulances to other hospitals on Aug. 12 but decided to move up the date due to insufficient staffing at DMC’s emergency room.< p>Officials say the hospital has been losing staff since Measure C, a parcel tax to address its $18 million annual deficit, failed to garner support from two-thirds of voters. Employees have been leaving DMC in search of stability.
The RNs call these actions premature, that all options have not been full explored, and that these latest closures will make it increasingly difficult to keep the hospital open as a full-service facility.
“The biggest danger to patients is long ambulance trips,” said Seung Choo, RN, an intensive care unit RN at the facility. “Patients should not be diverted from DMC. An unnecessary, artificial bed cap discriminates against the most vulnerable people in West Contra Costa County, the elderly and disabled. The cap must end immediately so that patients can be brought quickly to a nearby emergency room in West County.”
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.
The union has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging unlawful discrimination by Contra Costa County and the West Contra Costa Healthcare District with the planned closure of the hospital.
The complaint seeks injunctive relief from the federal government to prevent the closure of DMC. The federal government is actively investigating the charges.
The nurses union is considering additional legal actions to stop cutbacks in patient services.