Following the failure of a parcel tax proposal to pass last month, Doctors Medical Center physicians and employees have made a concerted, heroic effort to save DMC. And they have found a workable solution.
Employees have expressed a willingness to take a 10 percent pay cut, and Touro University has agreed to partner with DMC to set up a residency program that will provide up to a 20 percent increase in Medicare payments. The result of these two measures alone is that a $20 million per year shortfall is reduced to perhaps $5 million.
While Contra Costa County provides tens of millions of support to its CCRMC in Central County, it provides no support whatsoever to DMC. As the only safety net hospital for West County, DMC is an invaluable community resource, yet it receives no support from county funds -- and this is a disgrace.
No other public institutions are sustained without community support or philanthropy.
Alameda County supports its safety-net hospitals. A measure to put a one-quarter-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot failed to receive the four necessary votes by the board of supervisors last week.
Proceeds from this tax would help police, fire departments and health care services, and the portion proposed to help DMC would result in its sustainability.
In Alameda County, a higher half-cent tax already exists. However, in its wisdom, the board of supervisors voted 3 to 2 to pursue a poll rather than allow the public to let its voice be heard.
Despite these options to save DMC, the power brokers, without consultation with DMC medical staff or employees, have moved toward closing DMC, but have couched this in the disingenuous term of a "downsized hospital."
This term is used to sell the public the lie that this will actually be a hospital, as well as to sustain a previously approved small parcel tax measure, which would sunset if the hospital closes.
A free-standing emergency room will not prevent doctors from leaving the area or provide specialty services, including state-of-the-art treatment of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, as well as emergency and elective surgery, and residents will have to leave West County for any hospital admissions.
In the overall scheme of things, uninsured and underinsured patient care will still need to be absorbed by the system -- thus no net saving, but the result will be the tragic and disgraceful loss of acute medical care to West County residents. A free-standing ED was an option extensively considered over the past three years by consultants hired by DMC, and it was deemed a nonsolution.
The Hospital Council's recommendation to pursue a free-standing ED may serve the politicians' interests, but it sabotages the interests of West County and its residents.
It is time for the county to stop pretending to be supportive, and to step up to the plate and provide honest support. This includes abandoning a proposal for a free-standing ED, pursing a grass roots petition to bypass the board of supervisors to get the sales tax measure on the November ballot, and with DMC on better financial ground, even incorporating it into the county's health care system, as is the situation in Alameda.
It makes sense and it is the right thing to do.
In the meantime, don't think for a second that the sheepish proposal for a downsized hospital is anything but the wolf it is.
Dr. Richard Stern is president of the DMC governing board and Dr. Sharon Drager is past chief of staff at DMC.