Richmond City Council puts Chevron-DMC motion on hold while patients and hospital hold on
on October 8, 2014
The fate of Doctors Medical Center remained in doubt after five hours of heated arguments at the Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday, which adjourned at 11:30 p.m.
The council postponed until Oct. 21 any resolution regarding whether to provide funds to help save the failing hospital, but several members expressed a willingness to reverse their previous positions and allocate some funds to the hospital.
The session featured displays of temper and insults hurled among council members as 41 public witnesses waited to testify for or against various funding proposals to keep the hospital open.
As the discussion of DMC moved its way up the agenda, Councilmember Tom Butt traded barbs with Councilmember Courtland “Corky” Boozé. Butt later walked out and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin pounded the gavel, saying she was calling for a recess. She then walked out.
Boozé used the break to speak directly to the community.
Boozé, who is requesting that DMC receive $20 million of Chevron’s $90 million contractual agreement with Richmond, came out from behind the lectern and approached the crowd waving documents relating to the plan.
Members of National Nurses United at the meeting said they support the funding plan but confronted Boozé, calling him out for alleged past inconsistencies on DMC funding.
The nurses flooded the room with red and gold posters saying “Save DMC, Save Lives,” while accusing Boozé of playing reelection politics with his votes.
After the meeting reconvened, the council and the community heard from DMC’s Chief Executive Officer Dawn Gideon, who stressed that Chevron relied on the hospital’s services during the refinery fire of 2012.
DMC physician Dr. Desmond Carson addressed the council wearing a cast, saying he used DMC services to treat his broken leg.
Among the witnesses who waited was Josefina Romero, who arrived about an hour early. Like many, she wanted to speak face-to-face with the council about the need for DMC to stay open.
In 2008, Romero began her long-term relationship with DMC when doctors treated her for breast cancer. In 2012, doctors told her that her cancer was advancing.
Romero, who is now undergoing chemotherapy and has a chemo port protruding from her shoulder, wanted to thank DMC physicians for “saving my life.” She had to wait as councilmembers’ arguments dragged on.
By 10 p.m., Romero could no longer wait around for the other 41 registered public speakers and councilmembers who continued arguing. Saying she was feeling ill, she packed up her belongings and walked out with her husband, who had to be up early for work the next morning so that she could continue to be on his health insurance.
With pleas from the community to exhibit leadership and start the process of saving DMC, officials offered two similar motions postponing the decision.
Councilmember Boozé and Mayor McLaughlin both proposed that Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay take more time to meet with Chevron leaders and a coalition of local officials, then report back to the council in two weeks.
Just before adjourning at 11:30 p.m., a majority of councilmembers passed the mayor’s motion that the council:
– “express its intent” to cut 15% from many non-DMC programs funded with Chevron money.
– direct staff to come back on Oct. 21 with a multi-year allocation plan after the end of litigation between Chevron and Communities for a Better Environment, a lobbying group.
– direct staff to come back after Oct. 21 with a plan for additional funding for DMC.
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