Judge Denies Bid to Restore Ambulance Service to Doctors Medical Center

August 30, 2014 · 9 comments

A federal judge in San Francisco denied a bid to force Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo to restore services cut in the face of a major deficit.

The order by Judge William Orrick denying a motion for a preliminary injunction came in response to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Aug. 12 by a group of doctors, nurses and community advocates against Contra Costa County and West Contra Costa County Healthcare District officials.

Earlier this month, the hospital, which is faced with an $18 million deficit, stopped accepting emergency ambulances, closed its heart attack intervention unit and reduced its number of inpatient beds to 50, citing staffing reductions and safety concerns.

Emergency ambulances that would normally go to DMC are now re-routed to other area hospitals, while DMC’s emergency room is now limited to walk-in patients.

The hospital has since also closed one surgical unit.

The lawsuit sought to stop the diversion of ambulances from the hospital and restore other service cuts.

While the hospital is run by an independent healthcare district, the lawsuit argued that the county effectively controls the district and, by failing to step in and bail out the hospital, is guilty of discrimination against the predominantly minority patients served by the hospital.

In addition, it is failing to provide prompt services and equal access to care for Medicaid and Medi-Cal patients – which make up about 80 percent of the patient population at DMC. Orrick’s ruling rejected that argument, finding that the county does not own or operate the hospital and is not required to support the hospital.

Nor did the plaintiffs establish that the county discriminates in its provision of health care, Orrick found.

County officials have maintained that the county isn’t in a financial position to keep the hospital afloat, and has already given more than $30 million over the years to bail the hospital out.

Voters in May 2014 rejected a mail-in parcel tax measure that would have provided $20 million annually for the hospital.

Plans to close the hospital were announced shortly after that election but in June officials said they would search for a way to keep it open.

Eric Zell, the healthcare district board chairman, said “Everyone associated with Doctors Medical Center is trying to do what is best for our patients and for the West County community,”

“We continue to work with all interested parties to keep this hospital open as long as possible and to preserve and provide needed care,” Zell said. “At the same time, we have a responsibility to our patients to deal with the reality of operating a hospital on a day-to-day basis with depleted financial resources and both voluntary and necessary reductions in personnel.”

East Bay lawmakers are working on legislation that would allow the hospital to collect higher reimbursement amounts for its Medi-Cal patients, and hospital officials say they are evaluating alternative financial models.

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1 Anon August 30, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Here is the REAL change that Hussein and ObamaCare has brought.

2 Julio August 30, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Closing Doctors Hospital should have happened years ago. Taxpayers have had to continually bail them out because of the high wages of management and staff. They have never cured that problem.

Do not get me started on Obama Care because at 75 it is the worst possible thing that has ever come along for senior citizens.

3 @ Anon, #1----Get your political facts straight; this started long before the ACA August 30, 2014 at 4:22 PM

ACA means Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This hospital has been in financial trouble for many years.

4 @ Julio---seniors have Medicare, don't have to worry about ACA August 30, 2014 at 4:49 PM

ACA works very well for those who don’t have any other coverage, such as through their employer, or who have a previous condition which has them locked into a high priced plan.

5 Bob the Repairman August 30, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Close the place up! If it can’t sustain itself, then get rid of it.

6 Julio August 30, 2014 at 6:17 PM

You have no clue. All you folks think this is God’s gift to the public. It is not. I am 75 and I know what medicare, Obama care and all the rest don’t do. Our insurance rate is respectable but we cannot afford medication, tests or to see a doctor. Medicare coverage? Get a clue clueless # 4.

7 Russ August 30, 2014 at 7:01 PM

Discrimination? Really???

8 ..... August 30, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Why let facts ruin a liberal’s story?

9 RIII August 31, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Think about this, a business has a product or a service and it is for sale or rent. If the product or the service is desirable and competitively marketed to the community, and it is profitable to the business , the business is a success. Apply this concept to anything and you will find that a good product or a good service at a reasonable price is usually a success.
Now, apply this concept to our medical business’. It does not work because the product has no published price or any competition in pricing; no one knows what the price is and a bunch of Politicians have decided that they can give this service or product to anyone for free! Who would ever go into that business?
Consider a tank of gas, a cart of groceries, or the rent on a piece of property is published and the consumer decides if he/she can afford it. That works in our society. Why do we allow Politicians to administer to the Healthcare Business? That doesn’t seem to work!

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