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Press Release

Health Officials Describe Plan for Handling West County Life-Threatening Illnesses

September 19, 2006

Contra Costa health officials outlined their plan today for ensuring that residents living in West Contra Costa County and experiencing life-threatening emergencies are transported efficiently to local emergency departments (EDs) in spite of the problems encountered recently by Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.

Art Lathrop, Director of Contra Costa Health Services' Emergency Medical Services Division, says ambulances in the county are currently not transporting patients to Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo because of major financial and staffing problems at the facility. Instead, ambulances will transport residents to EDs at other local hospitals, including Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, John Muir Medical Center in Concord, Kaiser Richmond, Alta Bates in Berkeley and other hospitals in Contra Costa and nearby counties. Patients experiencing a major trauma will continue to be transported to John Muir Trauma Center, often by helicopter.

"We want people who live in Richmond, El Cerrito, Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo and the rest of West County to be assured that if they have a life-threatening medical emergency, they should dial 911 and they will be taken to an appropriate hospital ED. Patients will be allowed to select an ED if they have a preference," said Lathrop, whose Division oversees all the ambulance operations in the County. AMR, the County ambulance provider, has given assurance that there should be no change in ambulance response time.

Dr. William Walker, Health Services Director, will be delivering a report this morning to the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors (at 651 Pine Street, Martinez) describing the status of Doctors and explaining how life threatening emergencies in West County are being handled.

"This is a very unusual situation," said Lathrop. "We usually don't let emergency rooms refuse to take patients. We are expecting to get a plan from Doctors Medical Center describing the Emergency Department operations and then we will reassess how best to protect the health and safety of our community."

Lathrop said that during this period when Doctors has asked that ambulances not be directed to their ED, other Contra Costa hospital emergency departments will not be allowed to turn away ambulances. Normally, when traffic is very heavy in EDs, the County's On-call Health Officer grants permission for short-term diversion to other hospitals. Typically, Doctors' ED received about 22 ambulance transports a day.

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Press Contact
  • Art Lathrop
  • 925-646-4690