The expected closing of Doctors Hospital in San Pablo is, indeed, a critical problem that will ripple throughout the Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay. It demands urgent attention. But, to do that, all involved must stop, take a deep breath and vow to be part of a thoughtful community solution.

Hyperbole, turf protection, wild claims and poison verbal darts will solve nothing. Not that such ever does, but that kind of nonsense is particularly unhelpful in this case. Drama won't get the job done.

Finding a workable solution will require an uncommon partnership among business, labor, taxpayers, medical personnel, financial institutions, environmentalists, governments, community organizations and community-interest groups.

We can't help but believe that such a solution will require a willingness to cast off an obsolete model and break some innovative new ground.

Clearly, this hospital has been on the ropes for years. Many years. It has tried lots of conventional solutions. Yet it continues to lose money at an unsustainable rate. The West County voters have been generous with their tax help over the years, hoping that doing so would turn things around. But it has not. Finally, patience ran out recently as voters refused to pass another $20 million Band-Aid in the form of a parcel tax.

Now hospital officials have given the state a 90-day-notice, as they are required to do, of their intention to close the hospital.


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The public hospital district's 25-bed emergency room is scheduled to close July 25. The emergency room logs about 40,000 patient visits a year. That fact alone foretells dramatic impact on the emergency rooms at other area hospitals, particularly Kaiser's Richmond hospital and Alta Bates Medical Center, not to mention the need for longer ambulance trips.

Those expecting some sugar daddy to come along at the last minute to save the day should get real.

No, Contra Costa County doesn't have enough sugar. Neither do the state or federal governments. The West County voters, who pay some of the highest taxes in the area, clearly said they have reached the bottom of their sugar bowl.

Something significant has to change.

We do not pretend to be wise enough to know all the answers, but we do know that the problems are so great that saving this hospital or somehow replacing its service is going to take a community effort the likes of which we have seldom seen.

But we also know that our community is a very smart one. It is in the interest of everyone in the East Bay to productively engage in this vital matter. Oh, yes, let's not forget, the clock is ticking.