One solution to the closing of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo on Tuesday is the opening today of an urgent care center across the street from the hospital called LifeLong Medical Care.
The nonprofit center at 2023 Vale Road aims to absorb some of the patients who would normally seek urgent care at DMC, the safety-net hospital that is ceasing to accept patients starting Tuesday.
(Click here to find out where to go, and who to call, after Doctors Medical Center stops accepting patients on Tuesday)
From noon to 8 p.m. daily, LifeLong Medical Care will treat patients with medical conditions that require immediate attention but are not life threatening. The facility is currently using five exam rooms, an observation room, and an X-ray room, with retrofit help from Kaiser Permanente.
Of the 80 to 100 people who would show up daily to DMC’s emergency room seeking medical attention, about 85-percent of them do not have life-threatening emergencies, said Marty Lynch, CEO of LifeLong.
LifeLong hopes to attract that 85-percent to its new facility, thus relieving pressure on the emergency rooms of other hospital systems such as Kaiser Richmond. Currently, the LifeLong facility in San Pablo will be able to house about 50 patients, Lynch said, but that number is expected to grow as the urgent care center expands its operations.
LifeLong officials cautioned, however, that the facility is just one solution to the medical care void posed by the closure of DMC. As LifeLong Chief Administrative Officer DL Poole says in the video below, “This is kind of insane, that [DMC] is closing.”
Last month, the West Contra Costa Healthcare District board of directors voted to close DMC, as its annual $18-$20 million deficit meant it was no longer able to meet the hospital’s payroll and other basic operating expenses.
The hospital’s financial problems began in the 1990s, attributable to changes in how hospitals are reimbursed for the care they provide. DMC services many uninsured patients and receives low reimbursement rates from MediCare and Medi-Cal patients.
After a third tax measure that would have closed its annual deficit failed to pass last year, the hospital was forced to dramatically reduce services, diverting all ambulances to surrounding hospitals and eliminating beds.
Last-ditch efforts to save the hospital proved unfruitful.
For San Pablo Mayor Kathy Chao Rothberg, the closure of DMC became all too real last week, when her husband collapsed from a medical condition while they were visiting San Francisco. She said she was lucky to have insurance. Her husband is OK, but the scare had the pair further reflecting on the impact DMC’s closure will have on people less fortunate.