Press Release

Nurses Urge Federal Court to Grant TRO to Prevent Doctors San Pablo Closures

Lawsuit filed today cites disability, race, and age discrimination.

The United States District Court, Northern District of California today set a hearing for 3:00 p.m. today to determine whether to grant a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the closure of the STEMI cardiac unit, the permanent diversion of ambulances, and the capping of inpatient beds to fifty at Doctor’s Medical Center in San Pablo, (DMC), the California Nurses Association announced today. Judge William Orrick will preside over the hearing that will take place.
The hearing is in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of nurses, physicians, patients and community members represented by Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price, who will face irreparable harm by the cuts in core services. CNA/NNU called on the court take prompt action to prevent a public health emergency.  

What:             TRO Hearing before U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to Stop
                       Closure of Services at Doctors Medical Center, San Pablo  
When:            Media avail: 2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and hearing at 3:30 p.m.
Where:           Judge Orrick, Courtroom 2, 17th floor
                       Northern District of California Federal Courthouse
                       450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

RNs note that the suit correlates with a growing community campaign to save the hospital in which the nurses have been in the forefront, and reiterated their belief that the County Board of Supervisors has a legal and moral obligation to assume operation of DMC and fully integrate it into the existing Contra Costa County Health System.
The complaint alleges purposeful discrimination against seniors, African-Americans residents, the disabled, especially those with chronic heart disease, and Medicare and Medi-Cal recipients, who make up the vast majority of patients who rely on DMC for ongoing, care. Remedies will be sought under Title VI of the Civil rights Act, the American for Disabilities Act, and California Welfare and Institutions Code 17000, which imposes a mandatory duty on each county to relieve and support all of its indigent residents.

The initial complaint will seek to stop the diversion of ambulances and particularly ambulances with patients who have serious heart attacks and require the lifesaving measures DMC is capable of with its STEMI procedures. The STEMI unit is an emergency department program for the treatment of heart attack patients, and is the only unit in West Contra County. STEMI is an acronym for a deadly type of heart attack that is caused by a prolonged blockage of blood supply in the heart.

“Critical hospital services must not be lost to West County,” said Carol Sims, a DMC RN who has worked at the facility since 1961. “Nurses see the emergency room diversion, closure of the cardiac unit, and bed cap as part of the escalating strangulation of a vitally important hospital. Traveling an additional thirty minutes or more by ambulance has life altering and even life ending consequences for a cardiac patient. We commend those in the community who are undertaking this latest legal effort, and again call on the county to assume responsibility.”

CNA/NNU filed a previous complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Civil Rights as well, alleging unlawful discrimination by Contra Costa County and the West Contra Costa Healthcare District with the planned closure of the hospital. The federal government is actively investigating the charges.  

Without DMC, West Contra Costa County, one of the most illness-prone regions in Northern California doesn’t have the emergency capacity for its current population with an ongoing shortage of ER and critical care beds. DMC currently has 79 percent of the hospital beds and 60 percent of the emergency care in the region, treating some 40,000 patients a year, and has 79 percent of the area’s hospital beds.

A widely circulated 2011 study on hospital services and changing demographics of Contra Costa County concluded that loss of DMC would be catastrophic to West County since it received 62 percent of the regional ambulance traffic, and the remaining West County hospital would be inundated by this patient volume shift as DMC patients would need to go somewhere likely resulting in ER waiting times of up to 10-12 hours.