SAN PABLO (KPIX) – It has been four years now since the closure of Doctors Medical Center, in San Pablo. While West Contra Costa County has done its best to cope with the loss of that emergency room capacity, residents are calling for a better solution.
“We need a hospital with an emergency department,” declared Dr. Desmond Carson. “That’s what we’re here to talk about today.”
It was Carson, an emergency physician turned local legend, along with a pair of first responders and a room full of concerned neighbors in Richmond Saturday, talking about a problem that has hung over this community since the closure of Doctors Medical Center in 2015.
Doctors was a perfect example of how America’s emergency rooms serve as a last line of defense in communities already underserved by our health care system. Because most of the patients were poor, it was operating with $20 million budget shortfall. For the family members of those brought there, and often those who died there, it was invaluable.
So what has happened since the closure? Expanded urgent care handles some of the traffic, and so does Kaiser Richmond.
“We have seen an increase in other surrounding emergency departments,” explains Dr. Carson. “We saw a huge loss in health care. They come to an urgent care with life-threatening illness, we have to send him to the emergency department that’s already overwhelmed.”
“We understand this is a regional issue, I think with the impending closure of Alta Bates by 2030,” says Brandon Evans, one of the organizers of today’s event. Local first responders told the audience about having to drive patients across Contra Costa County because of ER traffic. They say at this point, everyone understands the problem.
“So what are we gonna do,” asks Evans. “And we’re here to ask our elected officials ‘what are you willing to do?’ Are you willing to be bold?”
“We need another hospital,” says Carson. “We need a hospital.”
Alta Bates, in Berkeley, is a nonprofit facility operated by Sutter health. Sutter says it cannot make the seismic upgrades now required by the state of California and will close by 2030 at the latest.