Experts assembled to craft solutions to Doctors Medical Center crisis

West Contra Costa Healthcare District

A group of experts has been assembled to come up with creative solutions on how to provide adequate medical care to West County residents with or without Doctors Medical Center, the San Pablo safety-net hospital that could close in late July due to long-running financial woes.

Representatives from DMC, county government, community clinics and member hospitals of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California will staff the Stakeholders Group, the Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) announced Friday in a joint statement with the Hospital Council.

The goal for the group, headed by CCHS director Dr. William Walker, is to bring the top minds in local health care in one room to hash out how to preserve essential services in the event that DMC ceases or reduces operations.

To support the group, a separate technical advisory group has been formed to ensure that proposed strategies meet state licensure requirements. The technical group consists of experts in the field of health-care finance, medical law, and medical reimbursement.

“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,” said Dr. Walker.

While Dr. Walker believes a sustainable solution is attainable, he said 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.”

DMC has had financial troubles since the 1990s, largely because many of its patients are covered by government plans such as Medicare and Medi-Cal, which reimburse hospitals at a significantly lower rate than the cost of services. After a parcel tax to close DMC’s $18 million annual deficit failed last month, the hospital announced it could close before the end of July.

DMC provides 79 percent of the hospital beds and 60 percent of the emergency care in West County. Its closure would put added demands on emergency rooms in nearby hospitals, such as Kaiser Richmond, causing wait times to balloon, according to hospital staff.