The Supreme Court's Thursday ruling on health care hightlights that community hospitals bear a lasting responsibility to expand services for patients needing both immediate and long term care, said Doctors Medical Center's chairman Eric Zell.
Zell, who chairs both the Doctors Medical Center Governing Body and the West Contra Costa Healthcare District, made the remark in a statement issued after the court ruling.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision illustrates the need for community hospitals to be able to take on more families in need of immediate and long-term healthcare,” Zell said. “It has become increasingly apparent that expanding access to local medical care will be the challenge of the next decade.”
Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo is a public hospital that provides emergency and other care within a district that covers West Contra Costa County. It has the largest and busiest emergency room in the reigion, serving more than 40,000 emergency cases per year. The vasy majority of the public hospital's patients are uninsured or using Medcare or Medi-Cal programs. Reimbursement for services provided are far below actual costs.
The ruling demonstrates the need for and value of community hospitals, Zell said.
“Many do believe that it truly does take a village to raise a child,” he said. “But when it comes to health care it takes a community to treat a patient. Community hospitals will be on the front lines of the massive health care expansion and will form the basis of medical care for tens of thousands right here in the Bay Area.”
Last November, health care district a $47 parcel tax to save Doctors Medical Center from an $18 million budget deficit and certain closure. The low government reimbursement rate has been a key reason that the hospital has suffered serious fiscal difficulites for decades.
Doctors emerged from bankruptcy in 2008 after being receiving from Contra Costa County, and John Muir and Kaiser medical centers.
Closure of the hospital would have affected East Bay residents with no alternative for local medical care. Emergency patient cases likely would have been treated instead at the county hospital in Martinez or Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, whether or not patients were insured.
The medical center treats more than 40,000 emergency room patients per year. It is the region’s only public, safety-net hospital. The facility dates to 1954 and also must address concerns about its seismic safety.