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Doctors Medical Center San Pablo

Impacts of Potential Downgrade or Closure of Hospital Emergency Services at Doctors Medical Center


Update August 7, 2014

Ambulances will be diverted from Doctors Medical Center's emergency department beginning Aug. 7 as the hospital adjusts to staff changes in the wake of employee and physician resignations, Doctors Medical Center and the Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services Agency announced August 6, 2014.

Although the medical center will no longer accommodate emergency ambulance traffic, its emergency department will remain open for walk-in patients and continue to receive patients transported by ambulance from nursing homes.

Changes in how ambulances are deployed will occur as needed to help ensure the needs of the community are met, said Dr. Joe Barger, Contra Costa EMS Medical Director.

"The EMS System is prepared to adapt to any changes that may occur at Doctors Medical Center" states Dr. Barger. "We do not expect to see any adverse impact to EMS response times for the West County community associated with this change but patients who have to travel out of West County for their emergency care will be traveling longer distances."

Patients needing emergency medical care will be transported to the closest available basic emergency department, which may vary based on the location of the patient. Patients needing specialty care, such as treatment for high-risk heart attack (STEMI), will be transported to the closest appropriate specialty facilities in Contra Costa or surrounding counties.

Contingency planning for this change in emergency services at DMC have been underway since the hospital announced a fiscal state of emergency in November 2013. Despite extensive efforts on the part of all those involved, maintaining DMC as a full-service hospital is not sustainable, said Dr. William Walker, County Health Officer and Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) Director.

Dr. Walker is leading efforts to come up with a solution to preserve emergency services in the area as part of a stakeholder group, which includes representatives from Doctors Medical Center, the West Contra Costa Healthcare District, CCHS, Contra Costa County government, the Hospital Council of Northern California, and area hospitals. The focus is on meeting the most critical community need—which is access to a full-service Emergency Department, Dr. Walker said.

"Our intent is to work with our community partners and the California Department of Public Health to restore a full-service Emergency Department to serve the needs of the community," Dr. Walker said. "Any solution will require an ongoing partnership between our health care partners and the community."

Doctor's Medical Center has provided about 80 percent of inpatient hospital capacity and nearly 60 percent of emergency room care within its service area of 250,000 residents in western Contra Costa County.

The hospital announced in April that it intended to close, prompting Contra Costa EMS to hold a public hearing on June 9 regarding the potential impact of that action (watch a recording of the hearing here). Doctors Medical Center subsequently retracted its notice of potential closure when the stakeholder group formed.

The hospital, community owned by the West Contra Costa Healthcare District, is now working with its partners on strategies for closing an $18 million annual operating deficit while maintaining its emergency, acute care and other healthcare services for West County residents.