CONTRA COSTA: Pinole Hospital to Lose Emergency Care
Tenet Health System announced Tuesday it will no longer offer emergency room services at Doctors Medical Center in Pinole and plans to move services to its sister campus in San Pablo, the Contra Costa Times reports. In preparation for the consolidation effort, Doctors Medical Center will downgrade its Pinole facility to an urgent care center in March, and upgrade its facilities in San Pablo, adding 14 more critical care beds. Gary Sloan, CEO of Doctors Medical Center, noted that the change will be difficult for some in the community, but said, "Some individuals are occasionally reluctant to come to San Pablo, but once there, I've gotten a tremendously positive response." Under California law, officials with Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services have a 60-day window to evaluate how the proposal will affect care for county residents and report to the state Department of Health Services. In turn, the state must approve Tenet's consolidation plan and the county must hold a public meeting to discuss the change. Nevertheless, Dr. William Walker, director of Contra Costa's Health Services Department, said, "In the end, this is a for-profit hospital, that makes for-profit decisions. And the local agencies don't have much impact on the decisions they make." Pinole Mayor Maria Alegria said she is concerned about the "loss of the community emergency room" and that Pinole officials "weren't part of the decision-making." Nevertheless, the county's assessment -- regardless of its outcome -- and public opinion are unlikely to "derail the realignment" of the two medical centers, some argue. Lynn Baskett, regional vice president for the Hospital Council of Northern California, said, "The government is understandably leery of telling a business that it is required to provide services, without providing a means to pay for it" (McMillan, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.