CONTRA COSTA COUNTY: Supervisors Vote Against Pinole ER Closure
Contra Costa County supervisors yesterday voted unanimously to request that the state to block the closure of the emergency room at Pinole's Doctors Medical Center, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The vote followed a presentation by county Health Services Director William Walker, who reported that the closure would have significant effects on area health care. Tenet Healthcare Corp., the hospital's owner and one of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chains, last November announced the plan to close the Pinole ER, re-routing Pinole emergencies to the Doctors Medical Center of San Pablo. Under the proposal, the Pinole facility would retain outpatient surgery, long term care, substance abuse and specialty outpatient services. But the plan met great disapproval from west Contra Costa County residents, who fear a significant decline in services and possibilities of adverse effects from transportation delays.
While residents lauded the vote, Doctors Medical Center CEO Gary Sloan rebuked the decision, warning that Tenet could be forced to shut down the Pinole facility entirely. He said, "I do not want to be here a year from now to explain ... why this community has no hospital." Sloan also noted that the vote does not guarantee that the state will agree to block the closure -- the county supervisors only have power to request that the state deny Tenet's request or severely limit the consolidation. "The Department of Health Services will ... come up with its own conclusions," Sloan said. Board of Supervisors Chair Donna Gerber, however, countered Sloan's comments by noting that the county lost three hospitals in the past decade, creating a "tight [ER] situation." "We have had people die in this county because of ... (emergency room) wait times. ... To lose one more hospital will be catastrophic," she said. Tenet officials, however, maintain that 70% of Pinole ER visits are not life-threatening cases and that San Pablo already is seeing a larger share of emergency cases (Johnson, 1/12).