Richmond city council urges Kaiser to rescue fiscally troubled Doctors Medical Center

Eric Zell, president of the Doctors Medical Center San Pablo governing board, speaks at the Richmond city council emergency meeting Tuesday night. The hospital is facing a $20 million budget deficit and is seeking financial assistance from Kaiser Northern California. The city council adopted a resolution urging Kaiser to support the struggling hospital. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

Eric Zell, president of the Doctors Medical Center San Pablo governing board, speaks at the Richmond city council emergency meeting Tuesday night. The hospital is facing a $20 million budget deficit and is seeking financial assistance from Kaiser Northern California. The city council adopted a resolution urging Kaiser to support the struggling hospital. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

The president of the financially plagued Doctors Medical Center San Pablo governing board didn’t sugarcoat things at Tuesday night’s emergency Richmond city council meeting.

“We’re projected to run out of money in May,” Eric Zell said. “The only way we have survived in the six years that I’ve been there is with the help of others.”

With the hospital facing a $20 million budget deficit, hospital representatives asked Kaiser Northern California for immediate bridge funding to keep its doors open.

“We only get cents on the dollar for the services we provide,” Zell said. “We’re running out of options to subsidize the needs of the community.”

The Richmond city council adopted a resolution urging Kaiser to support Doctors Medical Center by a 5-0 vote.

“It’s important we make sure that Kaiser follows through so that Doctors Medical Center remains open,” said councilmember Jael Myrick, who co-sponsored the resolution along with Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and councilmember Jim Rogers.

Myrick said that if Doctors Medical Center’s emergency room closes, wait times at Kaiser’s emergency room could spike from about one hour to nearly 12 hours.

“We can’t allow this to happen without saying something,” he said.

Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, who also serves on the hospital’s governing board, said Doctors Medical Center is losing between $15 million and $20 million annually.

When the hospital faced an approximate $17 million fiscal crisis in 2006, Kaiser stepped in and provided them with $12 million over three years. Gioia said Kaiser is considering supporting the struggling hospital once again.

“They’ve been helpful in the past,” he said. “They understand the impact to their emergency room.”

Myrick said an immediate cash influx was needed for the hospital, but also stressed the importance of a long-term solution to fix its financial issues.

Gioia said the hospital was looking into another parcel tax on residents, in addition to the existing two that were approved by voters in recent years.

When Vice Mayor Corky Boozé asked about seeking assistance from the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, who own and operate Casino San Pablo, Zell said representatives met with them.

“We’re asking everybody we can for support,” he said.

Gioia said Kaiser is still considering the hospital’s proposal and representatives will visit each west county city council to seek support on the matter.

Rogers and councilmember Nat Bates were not in attendance Tuesday.

2 Comments

  1. Tony Suggs

    I am sure the hospital has looked at service / costs cuts to save money.

    But this reminds me of how the federal government keeps raising the debt ceiling and not dealing with a permanent long time solution.

    So, if Kaiser gives them another $20 million, what happens in 6 months?

    Do we need or can afford another parcel tax that only lessen the deficit and not eliminate it?

    How about the hospital telling the state and federal governments that it will stop taking Medicare / Cal patients unless it gets full reimbursement for its services.

  2. Giorgio Cosentino

    I agree, Tony. This needs to be kicked back up the chain-of-command to our Governor, who is so proud of his budget efforts, but what do we have to show for it? Our Governor is sticking it to the taxpayer, forcing Doctor’s Hospital to pass the Parcel Tax hat yet again. Let’s quit enabling this flawed approach to supporting this hospital. This reimbursement issue is a state issue, so forcing us to resolve it is inappropriate to say the very least. How did High Speed Rail become more important than these patients?

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