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The Nurses’ Solution to Save DMC—County Must Run DMC and Chevron Must Pay its Fair Share

National Nurses United Press Release, 7/28/14

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SAN PABLO—Registered nurses from throughout Contra Costa County will be joined by a broad and expanding number of organizations and individuals in a march and rally Wednesday calling for Chevron and the County to step in to keep Doctors Medical Center open as a full service acute care hospital. 
 The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is sponsoring the march that will begin at 4:30 p.m. from Doctors Medical Center and will end at the West Contra Costa Health clinic where a rally will follow. 
 

The RNs are calling for the Richmond City Council to approve a resolution submitted by CNA/NNU that is on the agenda at tonight’s meeting, calling for Contra Costa County to integrate DMC, and its emergency room, into the county health services as a full service acute care facility serving all West County residents.


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What:            Keep DMC Open—March and Rally

When:           Wednesday, July 30, 4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m

Where:          March begins—Doctors Medical Center, 2000 Vale Rd., San Pablo
                      to West Contra Costa County Health Clinic, 13601 San Pablo Ave.,
San Pablo

Public outcry for the County to step in has been building for several months, with nurses holding town halls throughout the area.  Funding should no longer be an issue, say the RNs, with a projected $19 million increase in County property tax revenues. In addition, the city of Richmond has an opportunity to require significant contributions from Chevron to ensure that DMC continues as a condition of the refinery’s modernization project. The decision that will affect countless lives now rests with the Richmond City Council.

“DMC serves as ground zero for the thousands of west county residents whose health is compromised on a daily basis as a result of living adjacent to a dangerous oil refinery,” said Carol Sims, an RN who has worked at DMC since 1961.  “We are the hospital that cares for a community ailing from the highest asthma and cancer rates in the county. We are the hospital that cared for the majority of patients adversely affected by the 2012 refinery fire. Our doors must remain open.”


“As a Kaiser RN, and a resident of Richmond where I live with my husband and three children, I know first hand the ill effects of the toxic chemicals Chevron produces during it's processing of oil,” said Mary Roth, RN, speaking of the responsibility Chevron had to assist in keeping DMC open. “I listened to the thousands of patients who could not breathe or were dizzy and weak or nauseous and vomiting during and after the August 2012 Chevron inferno. I helped the parents who were scared because their children's asthma medications were not as effective as usual and their children were struggling to breathe. More than 15,000 people had ill effects caused by the Chevron fire. Richmond Kaiser needed to set up tents to treat patients. Doctor's Hospital was overwhelmed. The community is ill-prepared to deal with this type of emergency and it will be even less prepared if DMC is closed,” said Roth.
 

“The emergency room at Contra Costa Regional Medical (CCRMC) in Martinez is already at maximum capacity,” said Farina Khan, an RN who works in the ER at CCRMC. “We need DMC to remain open to avoid a catastrophe to the whole county.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights investigation underway alleging unlawful discrimination due to planned closure of the hospital

The community served by DMC is largely African Americans and senior citizens.  African Americans accounted for 34.65 percent of inpatient discharges and 36.66 percent of ER visits in 2013.  By contrast, Contra Costa County Medical Center, which provides medical services to County residents outside of West County primarily, serves Caucasians who comprised 52.45 percent of discharges in 2013 and 40.77 percent of ER visits. (California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development). CNA/NNU filed the complaint in May. 
 

Before the county hospital was built, many county residents urged that it be built in the west side of Contra Costa, according to Myrtle Braxton, a member of Easter Hill United Methodist Church, and Vice President of California Alliance for Retired Americans  (CARA). Instead, according to Braxton, the county placed the hospital where it is inaccessible to West County residents, especially those who don't have cars, are disabled, or elderly.

“These are the people, many of them poor and uninsured, who depend on DMC”, said Braxton.  “ What can you call the plan to close down access to hospital services at DMC ? I think it really is a form of medical apartheid when you consider who is being harmed. The County really needs to integrate DMC into its system, as they should have done years ago. 

“In June, prior to learning of the unexpected increase in tax revenues, the County Board of Supervisors voted to table a proposed sales tax, proceeds from which would have partially gone to keep DMC open as a full service hospital. The Board decided instead to loan DMC $6 million dollars to keep it open this summer while a proposal to keep the hospital open as a downsized, stand-alone emergency room was developed. Operating DMC as an emergency room only would violate state law that requires a facility with emergency services to at least also include other hospital services needed to accompany an ER, especially an operating room and intensive care services.


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