Residents of western Contra Costa County needing emergency ambulance rides will have to look farther then Doctors Medical Center, as the cash-strapped San Pablo hospital will no longer be accepting ambulances as of Thursday.
The emergency room will still accept walk-ins, but patients being transported in ambulances will be redirected to Kaiser Permanente's Richmond campus, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley or other area emergency rooms.
"We've had to reduce the number of patients we can serve because we've lost so much staff," said nursing supervisor Russ Baker. "It's going to be really difficult for the people in this community."
The hospital, a 189-bed facility that has served West Contra Costa families since the 1950s, has been moving slowly toward closure since a $20 million, last-ditch parcel tax failed in May. The tax would have helped the hospital pay off its $18 million deficit and achieve some financial stability, as it continues to serve about 80,000 uninsured and underinsured patients annually.
The hospital began running into financial trouble in the 1990s as increasing numbers of its patients relied on Medi-Cal and Medicare, or had no insurance at all.
The closest hospital in the region is Kaiser Permanente in Richmond, which has a 15-bed emergency room - far too small to accommodate the 250,000 residents of El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo and Crockett.
Additionally, residents would likely face long waits at Kaiser or be forced to make the 17-mile drive to the county hospital in Martinez.