Since my election two years ago I have suggested that Doctors Medical Center (Doctors) needs to come up with a sustainable plan for its operation or close and cease operations. Doctors is not a County run hospital, but is run and funded through a special district, the West Contra Costa County Healthcare District which has its own governing board. Our County Hospital in Martinez requires $30 million in subsidy from our County General Fund. The County is not in a position to takeover Doctors.
On June 3rd I voted against hiring a consultant for $45,000 to poll voters in order to place a County wide sales tax measure on the November 2014 ballot. I viewed the sales tax option as a way to continue Doctors’ "business as usual" model and force the rest of the County to subsidize a hospital which can't break even because it has a poor, outdated model. Thus, I opposed the polling and the potential for a sales tax, and still do. A majority of the Board of Supervisors approved spending the $45,000 and a consultant was hired.
The following week Doctors' Board Members approached me and told me that West County Healthcare board members and the heads of various hospitals were working together to fashion a plan to have Doctors "live within its means" and create a new model of operation. Something very scaled back, potentially even a stand-alone Emergency Room which would not be dependent upon a countywide sales tax.
However, in order for them to implement the plan they need to wind down operations and could not entirely cease doing business or they would: 1) Lose their Medicare Number, which is how they are paid for rendering services to many patients, and if lost, could take several years regain it; and 2) Lose all revenue from one of their current parcel taxes as it would immediately cease if the hospital closed. The opportunity to create a new model would be lost.
On June 17th, with my support, the Board of Supervisors approved an advance on the Healthcare District’s property taxes in the amount of $6 million. Up to $6 million can be transferred from our General Fund and will be repaid to the County through a property tax transfer from the Healthcare District. When the property taxes are collected, they will go directly to the County, not to Doctors. It will automatically be paid back to the County in an amount of $8.2M. Legal Counsel opined that should Doctors file for bankruptcy, the chance of our obligation being discharged was very remote. Even if the hospital was to close, until the Special District is dissolved, those property taxes would still be collected by the County.
Thus, I felt the risk to the County, and especially taxpayers, was very low and there is finally a possibility that Doctors can reinvent itself to be sustainable and still provide some higher level of medical care to that part of our County. It should be noted that there are also two County operated medical clinics in West County which will continue to provide medical services to residents.
On June 24, 2014 the results of the $45,000 sales tax survey were received. The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed that a County wide sales tax should not go on this November’s ballot. The polling confirmed my belief that there would not be enough support for it to be successful. I continue to be hopeful that Doctors and its partners will come up with a new model of service delivery which will be sustainable without additional taxpayer subsidy.
Board of Supervisors Delta Water Platform
The Board of Supervisors approved an updated Delta Water Platform on May 13th of this year as a way of advocating the County’s views about stewardship of the Delta. The Delta Water Platform was first adopted by the Board of Supervisors in August of 2008 and establishes the County's policy positions. Staff and elected officials representing the County and the County Water Agency use the Delta Water Platform to guide comments and advocacy positions on legislation, policy, programs, and projects that may have an effect on the Delta. The Platform has been updated to better address current events in and around the Delta. This updated Platform enables the County to more effectively advocate for reliability, restoration, and resilience in California water. Supervisors Karen Mitchoff and Mary Piepho have provided great leadership on Delta issues for Contra Costa County. Supervisor Piepho is Chair of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, sits on the Delta Protection Commission, the Delta Counties Coalition and the East County Water Management Association. Supervisor Mitchoff sits on the Delta Protection Commission and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy Board. To view the Contra Costa County Delta Water Platform, click here.
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