Board of Directors vote to close San Pablo Doctors Medical Center

Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted on two measures to relieve the financial pressure on Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, which may force it to close.

Doctors Medical Center, a 60-year-old community owned safety-net hospital, will stop providing clinical care and close on April 21, the West Contra Costa Healthcare District Board of Directors voted on Thursday.

The decision, though made "reluctantly," follows a financial briefing indicating the hospital is on the verge of running out of money and has exhausted its ability to borrow more funds.

"This is a very sad day and a huge loss for our community and for all of us who have worked so hard to keep our community hospital open for all our residents in time of need," said Eric Zell, chairman of the District's elected board of directors. "We have exhaustively pursued every alternative over the past weeks, months and years. Unfortunately, we have completely run out of viable and responsible options."

According to financial projections provided at a joint meeting of the District Board and Governing Body, Doctors Medical Center (DMC) will begin running short of money to meet payroll and other basic operating expenses by early May.

Though approximately $7.5 million is being raised by the Board through the sale of a portion of hospital property-the back parking lot and a pair of office buildings and a condominium across the street-the money should be used to cover final payroll, accrued benefits and other obligations to DMC employees, physicians and hospital vendors, financial advisors recommended Thursday.

If the Board chose to keep the hospital open, the advisors said, the money from the property sales would be gone by July and DMC would then have to close but without the ability to pay its employees, doctors and vendors.

"Our employees and physicians deserve to not be left holding the bag," stated Chairman Zell. "Our employees and doctors have stuck with us through thick and thin and we must make sure they are made whole under any scenario. If we agreed to spend our last remaining funds on operations, we would not be able to meet those obligations."

"Despite cutting DMC's losses in half, passing a new revenue raising parcel tax, and the County's successful efforts to help bring in nearly $100 million in outside funding over the last nine years, I am deeply saddened that DMC has run out of cash and is not able to financially continue serving our community," said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, also a member of DMC's Governing Body.

"Continuing further operations would only put the hospital deeper in debt and jeopardize its legal and fiduciary obligations to pay its employees, physicians and vendors."

With the closure of DMC, West Contra Costa loses 79 percent of its inpatient hospital capacity, and an Emergency Department that historically has provided 59 percent of emergency treatment in West County-including all severe heart attack care.

DMC also provides vital outpatient services such as cancer treatment, dialysis and free breastcancer screening for low-income women. Dr. William Walker, Contra Costa Health Services Director and a member of the DMC Governing Body, said county health officials are working with other West County healthcare providers and hospital systems to provide primary, urgent and emergency care alternatives for West County residents

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