End of Line for Doctors Medical Center

The East Bay city of San Pablo no longer has a hospital. On Tuesday, Doctors Medical Center closed its doors to new patients, leaving a large urban area without timely emergency care. 

Lawmakers and community leaders have been trying to find some kind of solution for the safety-net hospital, which provides emergency hospital services for Richmond, San Pablo and other West Contra Costa County communities.

The hospital has been trying to deal with an $18 million a year deficit.

“The closure of Doctors Medical Center is a loss to all of us in West County,” said John Gioia, a member of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

The payer mix at DMC was 88% Medicare and Medi-Cal patients, and the reimbursement levels of those programs just didn’t pay for services provided, Gioia said.

“While many of us have fought to get these reimbursements increased, the situation hasn’t changed,” Gioia said in a written statement. “Hospitals nationwide are closing for the same reason.”
Doctors Medical Center filed for bankruptcy in 2006, but the county fought to keep it open. Voters passed two separate parcel taxes — in 2004 and again in 2011 — to keep DMC going, but a third parcel tax vote failed last year. An effort to launch a sales tax last year for DMC also failed.

Last month, the hospital sold 2.5 acres of land to the city to raise $2 million to meet its payroll costs.

Legislatively, there have been several efforts in the California Legislature to help the hospital, including passage in 2011 of SB 644 by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), and passage last year of SB 883, also authored by Hancock, which appropriated $3 million for the hospital.

A new urgent care clinic has opened across the street from DMC to address some of the community need for emergency services.

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