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Press Release

Doctors Medical Center closure would be catastrophic for Contra Costa

Emergency room waits in area could increase to 12 hours, report finds

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The closure of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo would have a catastrophic impact on emergency services in Contra Costa County, according to a new report commissioned by Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Continued concerns over the long-term financial sustainability of this critical community hospital serving West Contra Costa residents indicate that the facility will likely be forced to close unless drastic steps are taken. Its closure would mean the loss of one of only two hospitals in the West Contra Costa region and the closure of the area's largest emergency room. This would place an enormous strain on already overwhelmed emergency services in the county, the report shows. County Supervisor John Gioia, who also chairs the hospital's Governing Board, said this can't be allowed to happen and community leaders are calling for every effort to be made to save the hospital.

"Without Doctors Medical Center, it would take longer to get seriously injured people to a hospital and result in longer waiting times in emergency rooms in the area. We have to work together to find a way to keep its doors open and maintain critical, life-saving emergency services in West County," Gioia said.

Released this month, the report provides an analysis of emergency department and critical care needs in the region and what the impacts would be if the hospital closed or changed its services. Doctors Medical Center declared bankruptcy in 2006, resulting in the facility being closed to ambulance traffic for two months, said EMS Director Patricia Frost.

"The disruption in services in 2006 was severe. The hospital provides 59 percent of the emergency room care in the region and represents 79 percent of West County's inpatient care capacity. If it closes, the impact could be devastating," Frost said. "It's mission critical that we keep it open."

The hospital serves a diverse population, including the elderly, low-income residents and the uninsured of the community, said Doctors Medical Center Interim President and CEO Dawn Gideon.

"Doctors Medical Center is West Contra Costa County's only safety net hospital and our emergency room serves 40,000 patients a year and the local population of more than 250,000 people," Gideon said.

Its closure also would mean that the remaining hospital in the area, a Kaiser Permanente facility in Richmond, would be inundated with additional emergency room patients and could result in waits of up to 12 hours. Ambulances would be forced to travel further to find other hospitals with available space, costing $2.5 million in additional ambulance hours. Doctors Medical Center is also a receiving center for the county's high risk heart attack program and provides 25 percent of the county's overall heart attack care and 100 percent of that care in West County, Frost said. Additionally, the facility would serve as a critical resource for medical services in a disaster.

Gioia said that the Doctors Medical Center Governing Body is working to find a way to keep the facility operating and representatives will meet Thursday with the state California Medical Assistance Commission to review options.

For the full report commissioned by EMS, a Division of Contra Costa Health Services, visit: the CCHS website at

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Press Contact
  • Kate Fowlie, CCHS,
  • 925-313-6268