At the last steering committee meeting it was agree that we should work to support finding a solution to the Doctors Medical Center crisis. After consultation with Dr. Walker, of the Regional Medical Center, it was felt that we could be most beneficial at this time by trying to influence the state Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve making DMC a satellite of the Regional Health Center in Martinez. This would help develop at least one possible option. Therefore, we have drafted a letter writing campaign.
A draft of a letter we are asking Faith Community members to send to Sacramento.
A cover note giving some of the background on the issue.
A copy of the editorial from this Sunday’s Contra Costa Times supporting this idea.
We feel, consistent with our structure, this must be approved by the Steering committee before undertaking the effort. We are under a severe time constraint and hope to implement the campaign this coming weekend.
We anticipate a two pronged approach. We will email this to our entire mailing list and we will send requests to some of our affiliated religious institutions asking them to organize a campaign to solicit help from their membership.
Therefore, could you please review this immediately and get back to me by Tuesday evening, September 2. Let me know of any suggestions, ideas improvement or concerns.
Looking forward to hearing your responses.
Secretary Diane S. Dooley
California Health and Human Services Agency
1600 Ninth Street, Room 460
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Secretary Dooley:
I am a resident of Contra Costa County. I happen to live in ___________________________ so you may think I don’t care about the future of Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in San Pablo, but I do. I care because all residents of the County should have access to affordable, quality, timely health care. Last year DMC treated 40,000 patients in the emergency room. Letting DMC close would be a travesty for the local population and for our entire County.
I know that there are many stakeholders involved in trying to work out a solution to the DMC crisis. Developing alternative options will assist our leaders in finding an acceptable outcome.
One alternative that has been proposed is to maintain DMC as a full-service hospital. This would allow for the continuance of a broad range of service to be available locally. However, substantial alternative funding would need to be found because only 11% of the DMC patients are privately insured. The surrounding major hospitals have been providing some support but they cannot make up the large deficit.
Another alternative being discussed is for DMC to become a satellite emergency department under the county’s jurisdiction. Thus, as part of a public hospital it could collect higher reimbursement rates under the county license and get county subsidies. It is reported that only about 10% of the ER patients would likely be transported to another facility.
I understand that for this alternative to be available, your department must grant authority for such a conversion. It is for this reason that I want to urge you to examine this situation carefully, learn the facts of this case, and after examining the law, grant the necessary approval.
Your job is not an easy one, but I trust you will do the right thing.
______________________ Include physical address
This can be emailed to: Maria.campos-vergara@CHHS.ca.gov
Doctors Medical Center – Background information
The Mulit-Faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition is exploring what we can do to help reduce poverty, and its consequences in Contra Costa County. Our Health Task Force has recommended and our Steering Committee has approved efforts to help find a solution to the potential closure of Doctors Medical Center (DMC) of Pinole. DMC is currently funded by West Contra Costa Health District which is comprised of 250,000 West County residents. The hospital saw 440,000 patients last year. Currently, it has an operating deficit of $18 million annually. It does not receive any funding from the County, but it does receive some assistance from other local hospitals, including Kaiser, John Muir and Alta Bates. In June, a ballot initiative, which might have saved DMC, failed. DMCs payer mix is 80 percent MediCal/Medicare patients and 11 percent private insurance. Recently, ianticipation of the hospital closing, DMC's staff has been moving away and the hospital has been diverting ambulances to other facilities.
One alternative that has been proposed is for DMC's Emergency Room to become a satellite emergency facility under the license of the Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center, so that it would be eligible for the higher reimbursement rates allowed counties and also be eligible for county assistance. Such an arrangement would allow people to continue to get emergency services locally. In order to do this however, approval must be given by the state's Secretary of Health and Human Services. There are legal opinions supporting such a move.
Therefore, we are requesting members of our community to write to the Secretary to let her know of the concerns of the many members of our faith communities. Attached is a sample letter. You can send it by regular mail, or, using this link, by email. If you would like to become informed of future activities of the Multi Faith ACTION Coalition, please go to our website and enroll.
The biggest thing standing in the way of saving West Contra Costa's busiest emergency department is politics. State health Secretary Diana Dooley must push past that and clear the way for transitioning the financially failing Doctors Medical Center into a satellite emergency facility.
Nurses and physicians, more concerned with protecting unsustainable jobs than ensuring adequate emergency service, continue demanding that Doctors remain a full-service hospital.
Unfortunately, that's not realistic. The district lacks the revenues. Civil rights attorney Pamela Price's misguided attempt to use the courts to block service reductions won't produce more income, as the judge in the case understands.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner's pending legislation seeking higher federal reimbursement rates is a long shot that, even if it succeeds, won't close the funding gap. With or without that additional money, the numbers don't work.
We saw that as the district borrowed to keep Doctors running the past few years. All that has done is bury West County taxpayers deeper in debt that will take decades to pay off.
We see that again in a new financial analysis prepared for an advisory group trying to find a solution. A streamlined full-service hospital would lose $18 million to $22 million a year.
Nurses and physicians keep calling for a county bailout. Their protests and marches grab media attention, but ignore reality. The county, reeling from budget cutbacks and huge pension and retiree health costs, struggles to adequately fund its existing programs, including health services and understaffed sheriff and district attorney offices.
It's time to get real. Neighboring hospitals have agreed to consider financial assistance, but only for a sustainable model. The only scenario that comes close is a freestanding emergency department operating under the license of the county's Martinez hospital.
That would still lose about $9 million annually, but the other hospitals have incentive to help close that gap to avoid patient diversions that overburden their emergency rooms.
Of course, doctors and nurses have been working in Sacramento to block this option. They argue that anything less than a full-service hospital would be unsafe for patients. That's untrue. Hundreds of satellite ERs operate in other states.
There's an open legal question whether California law allows the state Department of Public Health to license a satellite emergency department. Attempts to change the law would likely fail because of the California Nurses Association's tight grip on the Legislature.
But local leaders have made a strong legal argument that the state could issue the license under current law. We hope Dooley moves quickly so that a smooth transition can begin before the hospital runs out of cash.