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State offers lifeline for Doctors Medical Center

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to give $3 million to Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, which has faced closure in recent months due to its ongoing financial problems.

Brown on Saturday signed Senate Bill 883, authored by state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, in order to give the hospital funding while hospital and county officials seek long-term funding.

Skinner said in a news release:

“Doctors Medical Center is the safety net hospital for Richmond, San Pablo and other West Contra County communities, it’s closure would leave a community in need without emergency care, cardio, dialysis and other critical hospital services. … The Governor’s support of this $3 million lifeline expands our window for pursuing solutions to continue to meet these critical healthcare needs.”

The hospital’s ongoing fiscal issues have led the facility to divert emergency ambulances to other Bay Area hospitals and to drastically cut its number of inpatient beds in recent months.

At least one death has been linked to the diversion of ambulance service from DMC, according to the California Nurses’ Association and Skinner’s office. Hospital executives have prepared for the closure of DMC as community activists, hospital staff and patients have protested against the closure.

DMC’s financial problems have persisted over the years due to a patient population that mostly receives Medi-Cal or Medicare, which gives the hospital lower reimbursement rates.

A May parcel tax measure designed to bridge the hospital’s $18 million structural debt failed, accelerating the prospect of DMC’s closure.

A hospital council consisting of health care providers from Contra Costa County and other Bay Area hospitals has been formed to come up with alternate, lower-cost hospital models that would allow DMC to stay open, such as a stand-alone emergency room.

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