Parcel tax proposed to save Doctors Medical Center


Opponents of this measure say the folks in West Contra Costa County already have some of the highest taxes in the area and they cannot afford to pay more. However, supporters of Measure C argue if the hospital closes, the price would be much higher.

The Doctors Medical Center's emergency room sees about 40,000 patients per year, but despite the steady flow, the San Pablo hospital may be once again on its last legs.

After years of financial instability, Doctors Medical Center will now be at the mercy of the voters in West Contra Costa County. It comes in the form of Measure C, a parcel tax that would raise an estimated $20 million per year. With 80 percent of its patients under-insured, Doctors currently loses about $1.5 million per month.

"This is the last-ditch effort to save Doctors Hospital. In spite of cutting the loss in half, making a number of changes at the hospital, the only way this hospital will stay open is if this measure passes on May 6," said John Gioia, the Measure C campaign co-chair.

But the measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass. If it does, the tax would amount to about $160 per year for the owner of a 1,200 square foot home.

Wendy Lack is on the board of the Contra Costa County Taxpayers Association. She told ABC7 News, "In talking with small business owners and residents here, they just can't pay anymore and frankly don't see any reason to since there's no long term plan for financial stability."

But those who work at Doctors say those who depend on the hospital, can't afford to go without it.

"If the hospital closes, people are going to have to travel to either John Muir or Alta Bates in Oakland and that time on busy freeways, traffic, congestion, those minutes count and it's going to be the difference between life and death for some people," said Dr. Richard Stern from Doctors Medical Center.

If Measure C passes, and the hospital still closes, the parcel tax would sunset, or be eliminated.

A cash-strapped Sebastopol Hospital is set to close at the end of the month, but it could receive two proposals next week to stay open, with drastically scaled back services. Palm Drive Hospital filed for bankruptcy last week.

It's the only hospital in West Sonoma County. One proposal would involve a $700,000 contribution from the Palm Drive Health Care Foundation and a former hospital board member.

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