CC Times calls latest proposals to save Doctors Medical Center ‘cruel hoax’

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West Contra Costa Healthcare District

A Contra Costa Times editorial on Monday pointedly characterized the latest efforts to keep Doctors Medical Center open as a “cruel hoax that provides false hope.”

The newspaper also sided with a stakeholder group’s assessment last year that a full-service DMC is no longer a viable option.

“But by shifting to urgent care and preventive health services, it could still do a lot to save lives,” the Times said.

Four proposals presented to West Contra Costa Healthcare District board — one from the city of San Pablo and the others private groups  — would require the hospital to sell its assets to raise short-term cash, which the newspaper called “another form of borrowing that will drive the district, and taxpayers, deeper in debt.”

The Times pointed out that, despite the passage of two parcel taxes since 2004, the district still spends more than it takes in and covers those costs by borrowing against future tax revenues:

 “It’s now more than $75 million in debt to the county and bondholders, a liability that won’t be retired until 2042. Yet it will run out of cash in March.”

The recent proposals would only raise enough money to keep the hospital open through the end of 2015, but without further support the hospital would continue to lose about $20 million a year. The Times added:

“But the primary point is that the asset would be lost and the proceeds would be used to cover operating expenses. The equity would no longer be available to help pay down debt. That additional burden would shift to taxpayers.

The 60-year-old safety-net hospital’s financial problems are attributed to its servicing of uninsured patients and also from low reimbursement rates from MediCare and Medi-Cal patients. After a tax measure that would have closed its annual deficit failed last year, the hospital was forced to dramatically reduce services, diverting all ambulances to surrounding hospitals and eliminating beds.

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