Get The Facts
1. The closure of Doctors Medical Center has turned West County into a dangerous emergency room desert.
Doctors Medical Center (formerly Brookside Hospital) Richmond’s only full-service public hospital and emergency room closed its doors in 2015. Alta Bates emergency room is scheduled to close by 2030. The only remaining emergency room providing care between the Oakland/Berkeley border and Vallejo—covering over 300,000 residents—is the small Kaiser Emergency Room in Richmond. Unfortunately, Kaiser’s ER is already at capacity due to DMC’s closure and, more often than not, must divert ambulances to other facilities 20 to 25 minutes away, if not longer, during peak traffic hours.
2. Not having a full-service public ER in Richmond puts emergency patients at a significantly higher risk.
When it comes to surviving an emergency, every second counts, so having immediate access to emergency care is the only thing that matters. While Kaiser’s small ER is required by law to take in any patient, increased demand has led to overcrowding, longer wait times for patients, or their diversion to other facilities—particularly those on Medicare-MediCal. An ER that provides services to everyone, whether publicly or privately insured, would give our community access to doctors and nurses trained to handle both complex medical emergencies and the specialized equipment needed to provide emergency care around the clock.
3. Our community deserves a new hospital, but the lack of emergency care options makes an ER even more critical to our needs.
Unfortunately, based on the same economics that forced DMC to close, the likelihood of a new full-service public hospital that serves both rich and poor is close to none. DMC’s leadership spent years trying to partner with a public or private health care system to keep the hospital open but there were no takers. And to our knowledge, there isn’t a single health care system ready to open a new hospital in Richmond in the foreseeable future. While it’s been rumored that Kaiser may expand their facilities in Richmond, it would be for their patients and not for others outside their network or who are uninsured. Fortunately, we have options for primary and urgent care services but what we don’t have is adequate emergency care.In an emergency, seconds count, and having an ER in Richmond can mean the difference between life and death.
4. What are our options for increased emergency room services in West County and Richmond?
A New Hospital: While this would be the best option, as stated above, what we need the most right now is an emergency room. While we strongly encourage an existing health care system to open a new hospital, or expand the existing Kaiser Hospital in Richmond, there are no solid plans we are aware of that will address our immediate emergency care needs.
Expanding Kaiser’s Emergency Room in Richmond: Since DMC’s closure, Kaiser has experienced steep surges in demand and longer waits for patients. Expanding capacity would help, but only to a limited degree. Kaiser is for Kaiser patients only and what Richmond needs is a full-service emergency room available to everyone, whether publicly or privately insured, regardless of your ability to pay.
Enhancing Urgent Care Services: Urgent Care facilities are a great alternative for illnesses and injuries that require immediate medical attention. Lifelong Medical has done an excellent job expanding primary and urgent care services in our community since the closure of DMC. However, they are not equipped to handle strokes, heart attacks or other life threatening medical emergencies. We should do all we can to increase access to our current urgent care facilities, but what we really need are real emergency room services.
Opening a Stand-Alone Emergency Room: An effective solution to the vacuum created by hospital closures throughout the country, stand-alone emergency rooms offer affordable emergency care 24/7. Today, over 35 states allow them to operate but California isn’t one of them. With your help, that can change.
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