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Bankruptcy forces Hospital staff to Call For County Takeover

Hospital staff including registered nurses and doctors from Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, on Tuesday, has called on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors// to take over control of the hospital that followed a unanimous vote from the hospital’s board of directors that required hospital management to file for bankruptcy.

Nurse Tami Roncskevitz said, "We would like to see the county take over the administration of Doctors Medical Center. We believe the current situation at the hospital is placing our patients at serious risk."

Several employees have alleged that the hospital's current financial situation was a result of poor leadership in the hospital administration and called for CEO Irwin Hansen and other management to resign.

Hospital officials have declared in the absence of funds to the tune of $5 million to $8 million in the coming days they would have to start making plans to shut it down.

According to supervisor John Gioia although the board was sympathetic to the pleas to save the facility the county doesn't have the money to even attempt to take over the hospital.

He said, "It’s an important hospital. We need that emergency room. But we don’t have the money to bail it out in the short term. The county has its own problems in its own healthcare system."

Gioia and Supervisor Gayle Uilkema has assured staff that they would talking with the hospital administration and state and federal agencies in order to develop a financially viable plan for the future of the hospital.

However Gioia states that filing for bankruptcy may be the hospital's best option at this point. Then, it might be able to reopen at some point in the future under new leadership.

Hospital spokeswoman Gisela Hernandez said that the hospital, which was expected to serve around 47,000 emergency room patients this year, began re-routing ambulances and critical cases to other hospitals last week, acc ording to.

Several other services including employee salaries have been cut and as of Tuesday there were only 32 patients in the hospital.

Nursing supervisor Martha Iwaihara said, "Most of us are very sad. We’ve been here a long time. Most of us are sad seeing what the outcome of the hospital might be."

The West Contra Costa Healthcare District, a public agency, operates the hospital, serving an area of about 250,000 residents. Regular monthly losses of $1 million each month has mainly resulted because most of the patients either have no insurance or are underinsured.

One of the hospital’s directors admitted to county supervisors on Tuesday that administrators waited too long to impose some cuts that might have saved the facility.

Nancy Casazza said, "We were operating under the assumption that we could keep all the services at that hospital. In retrospect, we should have started downsizing a long time ago."

According to Contra Costa Health Services, Doctors Medical Center received an average of 22 ambulance transports per day that have now been rerouted to other hospitals.

Health experts have predicted a shortage of intensive care beds in area hospitals as soon as flu season hits, if Doctors Medical Center closes and a shortage of beds in the event of a large-scale disaster.

Doctors Medical Center’s board of directors also voted last week for the closure of the hospital’s Pinole campus immediately as well as the hospital’s substance abuse program, known as New Beginnings, and its obstetrics unit.

According to Hernandez the emergency room, which is still accepting walk-in patients, is the largest financial drain on the hospital because an estimated 30 percent of emergency room patients are uninsured. A large number of patients who are insured have Medi-Cal, which pays much lower reimbursements to the hospital than private insurance pays.

“The combination o f the two gets us into the situation that we’re in,” Hernandez said.


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