At Tuesday’s Richmond City Council meeting, Registered Nurses, hospital staff and community members asked council members to reallocate $15 million of a $90 million community benefit agreement with Chevron USA, to Doctors Medical Center San Pablo (DMC).Council members voted 6-0 with one abstention to distribute the money to DMC with the condition that it be operated as a full-service acute care hospital.The decision reversed the decision made in July in which the council approved of a community benefit agreement with Chevron that provided no funds for DMC.“This action, along with the recently approved $3 million allocation from the state, signals new hope for our community,” said Carol De Young, RN, and West County resident.
“Now it’s time for the county to follow the leadership of the Richmond City Council and do what it takes to save the vital county resource we cannot live without, Doctor’s Medical Center,” she said.
“We now urge the County Board of Supervisors and leaders of other municipalities served by DMC to act quickly to guarantee the future of DMC,” said Vinnel Thomas, RN, and El Sobrante resident.
According to a report issued in June by Contra Costa Health Services Emergency Services, on the impact of closing DMC, ” Doctors San Pablo exhibited a high level of preparedness to receive mass numbers of patients in the 2012 Chevron Refinery Fire Incident. If the facility closes there is reduced capability to manage a similar event at any scale.”
The report also notes that a large percentage of West County residents are below the federal poverty line and because of this are “more at risk than others for increased mortality and morbidity during disaster…the groups most likely to be affected are the elderly, children, diabetics and individuals with respiratory diseases and special needs.”
DMC stopped receiving ambulances at the emergency department on Aug. 7 and is currently operating as an acute care hospital with reduced patient capacity and a stand-by emergency room that doesn’t provide 24 hour emergency surgical services.
Without DMC, West Contra Costa County, one of the most illness-prone regions in Northern California doesn’t have the emergency capacity for its current population with an ongoing shortage of ER and critical care beds.
Prior to its reduction in services, DMC provided 79 percent of the hospital beds and 60 percent of the emergency care in the region, treating some 40,000 patients a year.
Since the diversion of ambulances began this summer, area hospitals have experienced an explosion in ambulance traffic and delays. Officials from Kaiser Richmond, which has received two-thirds of the diverted ambulance traffic, expressed concern in August that the increase in traffic is impacting the quality of care they can provide patients who arrive at their ER.