Federal judge refuses to restore ambulance service to Doctors Medical Center

West Contra Costa Healthcare District

A federal judge on Tuesday declined to force financially collapsing Doctors Medical Center to restore emergency ambulance service or halt more cutbacks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The judge was responding to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a group of nurses, physicians and patients who called for a temporary restraining order to halt the permanent diversion of ambulance service, the closure of the DMC’s STEM1 cardiac unit, and the capping of inpatient beds at 50 from about 140.

The lawsuit alleges the DMC cuts violate Title VI of the Civic Rights Act by discriminating against seniors, minorities, low-income residents and the disabled.

But U.S. District Judge William Orrick denied the restraining order, saying the West Contra Costa County Health Care District was forced to reduce services after the May defeat of Measure C, a parcel tax that would have addressed DMC’s $18 million annual deficit. After the defeat of the tax measure, DMC staffers have been leaving the hospital in search of stability. Because of that, the hospital is now unable to operate at full capacity, according to district officials.

But the group behind the lawsuit countered the hospital could be adequately staffed without the severe cuts. The plaintiffs will get another chance to present their case at a Aug. 27 court hearing, the Chronicle reported.