PINOLE ER: Citizens, Officials Ask County to Stop Closure
Concerned community members and Pinole city officials last night implored Contra Costa County officials to help stop the March closure of the emergency room at Doctors Medical Center. Parent company Tenet Healthcare Corp. plans to relocate all emergency services, critical care and most inpatient services to the hospital's sister campus in San Pablo. At a public hearing on the issue, Pinole Planning Commissioner Lorene Scalar told the Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services Agency that she is "deeply concerned that we're putting money ahead of human beings. Closing the ER could mean an individual's death." Opponents of the closure argued that rapid regional growth and increasing congestion on nearby Interstate 80 necessitate that the ER remain open. In addition, they worry that the hospital's intensive care unit will be shut down before replacement beds are available at San Pablo. Contra Costa County Supervisor Donna Gerber asked, "Even if (that expansion) were adequate, why would you put the cart before the horse?" Although the San Pablo facility will not add more ICU beds for about two years, hospital officials say there is no need for concern, noting that Doctors Medical Center will retain its ICU license in case of emergencies. Plus, the San Pablo hospital already has expanded its emergency department to deal with the inundation of new patients. "The [Pinole] medical staff has been in constant communication with the administration and Tenet (Healthcare Corp.) about doing this properly. The vast majority of ... [staffers] see this as an improvement to the community," Doctors Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. Stewart Gourlay said. The Emergency Medical Services Agency will issue a preliminary report on the impact of the ER closure on Jan. 5 and will send a final evaluation to the state Department of Health Services in mid-January. But even if the report indicates that the closure could hinder "access to timely care," it remains "questionable" whether the state can deny the closure petition (McMillan, Contra Costa Times, 12/17).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.