Seemingly in the nick of time, the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California and Contra Costa Health Services today announced the formation of a Stakeholder Group charged with developing a solution to the long-term issues facing West County health care in Contra Costa County. Following the rejection of Measure C in West County, the Doctor’s Medical Center (DMC) located in San Pablo, is in jeopardy, as it serves as the emergency center and primary care and medical-home for many residents in the area.
Since the failed Measure C, representatives of DMC said that that they would run out of money in July. Meanwhile, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia (D-I, Richmond) rallied Supervisors Karen Mitchoff (D-IV, Pleasant Hill) and Federal Glover (D-II, Pittsburg) to launch an effort to raise new funds for health and other services via a sales tax measure to be possibly placed on the ballot as soon as November 2014.
The proposed countywide sales tax measure was originally perceived by many, including nurses and doctors at DMC looking for some angel to save the facility, to be solely for either keeping DMC open or helping to fund some to be determined replacement emergency care facility in the area. In the past week, Gioia and Mitchoff have attempted to walk that perception back to mean such a sales tax would benefit health, emergency services, public safety and child care projects throughout the County. Unfortunately, sales taxes revenue goes to the General Fund and cannot be specifically earmarked.
In what appears to be the next step in what will be a long process, Hospital Council CEO Art Sponseller was joined by Dr. William Walker, director of the Contra Costa Health Services, in announcing the formation of the Stakeholder Group to evaluate a new health-care strategy for West County health care, given the financial crisis facing Doctors Medical Center.
“The hospitals and health systems of the region are prepared to work together with Doctors Medical Center, the county and other interested parties to forge a long-term health-care solution that’s in the best interests of county residents,” said Sponseller. Hospital Council members include Doctors Medical Center and the region’s major hospitals and health-care systems.
Under the direction of Dr. Walker, County Health Services will lead a Stakeholder Group that will include representatives from Doctors Medical Center, county government, community clinics and member hospitals of the Hospital Council. Among its tasks, the group will evaluate creative opportunities for preserving essential emergency services in West County.
A countywide sales tax would likely face stiff opposition given comments made by Supervisors Candace Anderen (D-III, Alamo) and Mary Peipho (D-V, Discovery Bay). While the Board of Supervisors just passed a 3-2 vote in order to take a poll to see if and how much tax voters would accept, as well as to instruct legislative leaders in the Assembly to pave the way for special treat to even allow for the measure in November, the vote to actually place the measure on the ballot by the Supervisors would need to pass by 4-1 or 5-0.
To support the work of the Stakeholder Group, member hospitals of the Hospital Council will fund a technical advisory group (TAG) made up of experts in the field of health-care finance, medical law, and medical reimbursement. The role of the TAG will be to develop innovative strategies for health-care delivery that meet state licensure requirements.
“In the past, the regional hospitals made significant investments in Doctors Medical Center in the hope that it could turn its financial situation around,” Dr. Walker said. “It’s clear we need to find a more sustainable health-care delivery system, one that provides superior care and is financially viable in the long run.”
Should Doctors Medical Center decide to eliminate services at the hospital, all of the remaining hospitals and health care systems in the region will work to ensure an orderly transition for medical center patients. “Residents will continue to receive inpatient and emergency room services from nearby hospitals, as they always have,” Sponseller said.
“We believe a sustainable, long-term solution is attainable,” Dr. Walker said. “But it will require the willingness of all parties to consider creative alternatives that are affordable in this period of great transition in the health-care industry.”
UPDATE — JUNE 9 PUBLIC HEARING ON IMPACTS OF DOWNGRADE OR CLOSURE OF EMERGENCY SERVES AT DOCTORS HOSPITAL IN SAN PABLO
ABOUT CONTRA COSTA HEALTH SERVICES: Its mission is to care for and improve the health of all people in Contra Costa County with special attention to those who are most vulnerable to health problems. Contra Costa Health Services is the largest department of county government, employing more than 3,500 individuals.
ABOUT HOSPITAL COUNCIL: The Hospital Council of Northern and Central California is a nonprofit hospital and health system trade association established in 1961, representing 185 hospitals in 50 of California’s 58 counties—from Kern County to the Oregon border. The Hospital Council’s membership includes hospitals and health systems ranging from small, rural hospitals to large, urban medical centers, representing more than 38,000 licensed beds.