Ballots for Doctors Medical Center tax measure to mail out this week

West Contra Costa Healthcare District

Ballots for the May 6 parcel tax measure aimed at keeping Doctors Medical Center and its emergency room from closing are being mailed out this week, according to the West County Times.

Measure C would tack on 14 cents per square foot a year on homes, or about $210 for a 1,500 square-foot house. It would raise $20 million annually for DMC, which officials say could close as soon as July 25 if the safety-net hospital’s financial goals aren’t met.

West County voters are already paying two parcel taxes annually to DMC, a 2004 tax for $52 per parcel and a 2011 tax for $47.

Supporters of the parcel tax say the closure of DMC – which has the county’s only public emergency room – would be life threatening to patients requiring immediate care. The 40,000 patients who visit the hospital’s ER each year would have to travel farther. Kaiser Richmond, which has only 15 beds, would possibly be forced to serve 100 additional patients a day, with wait times as long as 10 hours, according to supporters.

“Seconds count in an emergency room and extra travel time could mean the difference between full recovery, long-term disability or even death,” they said.

DMC is also West County’s stroke and heart attack center, provides breast cancer screening for low-income women and free health screening for seniors.

Opponents of the ballot measure believe the state or federal government, not taxpayers, should bail out DMC. They also doubt DMC will close if the parcel tax doesn’t pass, believing it could go into bankruptcy as it did in 2006.

Ballots must be received by the county elections office by May 16. Voters should call the county elections office at 925-335-7800 if they have not received a ballot in the mail by April 15.