Doctors Medical Center unions file civil complaints over hospital’s planned closure

West Contra Costa Healthcare District

Unions representing Doctors Medical Center (DMC) employees have filed a civil complaint over the planned closure of the safety-net hospital.

The unions announced Tuesday they filed charges last week with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights alleging unlawful discrimination by Contra Costa County and the West Contra Costa Healthcare District over the closure plan.

DMC is slated to close in July after a tax measure meant to raise $20 million annually to save the hospital failed earlier this month. The  hospital has been losing money for years, and officials say that’s because a majority of patients are covered by Medicare and Medi-Cal, which pays hospitals a lower rate than most insurance plans. Cuts to those plans have only worsened the fiscal situation, officials said.

Now, hospital employees and community members say they’re doing everything in their power to save the hospital.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the first of three town hall meetings on the subject will be held at Easter Hill United Methodist Church at 3911 Cutting Blvd. in Richmond. The other meetings are scheduled for May 29 and June 5 in working class districts with significant senior and minority populations.

“DMC has been a vital safety net for citizens of the West County for many years, and as the complaints allege, the closure of DMC would have a disparate and disproportionate impact on the health of African Americans and senior citizens in violation of their civil rights,” according to a statement by the California Nurses Association. “The complaints seek injunctive relief from the federal government to prevent the closure of DMC.”

Myrtle Braxton, a member of the Easter Hill United Methodist’s Church, called the hospital’s closure a “disaster.” DMC provides 60-percent of the emergency care in the region — roughly  40,000 patients a year — and has 79-percent of the hospital beds, according to the CNA news release.

The hospital’s closure would overwhelm emergency rooms in nearby hospitals, such as Kaiser Richmond, causing wait times to balloon to between 10 and 12 hours, the nurses warned.

“In my work as a case manager, I know closure of DMC would have a catastrophic effect on this community,” said Karen Davis, a case manager RN who works at DMC. “I help our patients who often don’t have health coverage, get on Medicaid or Medi-Cal.  The health emergency a closure would cause in West Contra Costa County is incomprehensible.”