Last-ditch attempt to save struggling Doctors Medical Center up for a vote on Wednesday

West Contra Costa Healthcare District

The West Contra Costa Healthcare District Wednesday will consider selling off Doctors Medical Center property to the city of San Pablo in a last-ditch effort to prevent the immediate closure of the struggling hospital.

The district is hoping the infusion of money from the sale will keep the San Pablo hospital afloat through the end of February, when its cash-on-hand runs out. It remains unclear how much the district hopes to raise or which of its properties it is willing to sell, although the city last month offered to pay $11 million for six hospital-owned properties in exchange for a five-year lease-back to the hospital.

How the district intends to use the money is also unclear. Board Chairman Eric Zell told the Contra Costa Times that depending on the amount of money involved, the funds could be put toward maintaining a full-service hospital or an orderly closure. San Pablo City Council met in closed door session Monday to finalize its offer.

Last year, a regional planning group of health-care experts analyzed alternatives to a full-service hospital and recommended an urgent care center as the most effective long-term solution. While district leaders have said they are  not interested in pursuing the urgent care alternative, the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California released a statement this week once again endorsing the urgent care model.

The Hospital Council statement noted that more than 85 percent of the 85 to 90 patients who continue to visit the DMC emergency room daily are not in need emergency care, and that those patients could be treated faster and more efficiently at an urgent care center.

“By supporting an urgent care center and providing essential inpatient and emergency services, as they always have, the Hospital Council believes regional hospitals can best meet the health-care needs of the people of West County,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times on Tuesday called for Doctors Medical Center to close permanently, citing the healthcare district’s inability to map out a sustainable future amid mounting debts. The hospital has been losing about $18 million a year, despite various efforts on the part of the county and the healthcare district to restore its financial health.

“It’s time to start responsibly closing the doors, while ensuring that care for remaining patients is transferred, that medical and personnel records are properly preserved, that employees’ retirement plans are fully funded and that radioactive equipment is safely shut down,” the Times stated in its editorial. “Delaying the inevitable closure will only lead to more debt later. Sadly, it’s time to say goodbye.”