CONCORD -- Contra Costa County has joined forces with the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California to tackle long-term health care issues facing West County residents in view of the financial crisis and possible closure next month of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.

County Health Services Director Dr. William Walker will serve as the chairman of a new task force of representatives of hospital, community clinic and county government officials. The group held its first meeting at the John Muir Medical Center's Concord campus Friday.

Doctors Medical Center is seen in San Pablo on May 7, 2014. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
Doctors Medical Center is seen in San Pablo on May 7, 2014. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

The council, a nonprofit hospital and health system trade association that represents 185 hospitals in California, will fund a technical advisory group of experts in health care finance, medical law and medical reimbursement to develop strategies to meet the community's health care needs. A representative of the California Health and Human Services Agency is also expected to participate.

"I believe it is important to note that (Doctors) hospital will run out of cash and close in July before a final solution can be implemented," Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, who spoke at Friday's meeting, said in an email. "Therefore, I made a specific appeal to the group, at the meeting today, that other hospital systems partner with the County in providing funding to keep Doctors Hospital open beyond July while a solution is developed and implemented in order to have a smooth transition."

On Monday, the county Emergency Medical Services Division will hold a public hearing from 6 to 8 p.m. on the impacts of the potential downgrade or closure of emergency services at Doctors. The hearing will be at Maple Hall, 13831 San Pablo Ave., San Pablo.

In a news release Friday, Walker noted that other regional medical organizations have made "significant investments" in Doctors to help the facility avert its financial crisis.

"It's clear we need to find a more sustainable health care delivery system, one that provides superior care and is financially viable in the long run," Walker said in a statement."

In the event that Doctors closes, other hospitals and medical facilities will step in to find and provide care for the medical center's patients, Art Sponseller, CEO of the hospital council, said in the news release.

"Residents will continue to receive inpatient and emergency room services from nearby hospitals, as they always have," Sponseller said.

Said Walker: "We believe a sustainable, long-term solution is attainable, but it will require the willingness of all parties to consider creative alternatives that are affordable in this period of great transition in the health care industry."

The task force's nine members include county Health Services Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Pat Godley, county Emergency Medical Services Director Pat Frost, Doctors interim CEO Dawn Gideon and officials of John Muir Health, Sutter Health East Bay Region, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and LifeLong Medical Care.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.