Patients Fight Closing of Hospital Unit

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Contra Costa County's plan to close the cardiac care unit of the Doctors Medical Center will be "catastrophic" for residents of the Health Care District, particularly the elderly, African Americans, poor people and the disabled, a class action claims in Federal Court.
     The DMC Closure Aversion Committee and nine people sued the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the West Contra Costa County Health Care District, and their individual officers, on Monday in Federal Court.
     Contra Costa County, pop. 1.1 million, is inland from San Francisco Bay. Its seat is Martinez.
     The defendants announced they are closing the "specialized Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) cardiac care unit of Doctors Medical Center," divert ambulances from its Emergency Department and cap inpatient beds at 50, effective this week, according to the lawsuit.
     The STEMI unit is specially designed to provide quick care to heart attack patients.
     The Doctors Medical Center is one of only two hospitals in West Contra Costa County with a STEMI unit. It treated 578 patients last year, 78 of whom were "high risk" patients who arrived via ambulance, the complaint states, citing a June 2014 report from the Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services Agency.
     "The population DMC's STEMI Unit serves is comprised largely of African Americans, senior citizens, indigent persons, and disabled residents of West County," the complaint states.
     "DMC is one of only two hospitals in the West County, serving between 40,000 and 45,000 patients a year in its Emergency Department (ED). DMC represents 79 percent of the inpatient capacity in West County and provides 59 percent of ED care in the region. DMC receives 62 percent of the region's ambulance traffic."
     The complaint adds: "DMC serves a community in West County with elevated rates of health problems, notably heart disease, diabetes, cancer, as well as child and adult asthma. The community served by DMC is largely African American (34.65 percent of 2013 discharges) and people aged 60 or older (61.6 percent of 2013 discharges). By contrast, African Americans made up only 15.15 percent of discharges at CCRMC [Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center], and people aged sixty or older made up only 19.11 percent of hospital discharges at CCRMC in 2013.
     "Defendant WCCHD's elimination of its STEMI Cardiac Unit, diversion of ambulance services, and cap of 50 patient beds, and Defendant CCC's funding preference for CCRMC over DMC, are not justified by any healthcare services provision necessity. Such actions by defendants will cause devastating health consequences to African Americans, senior citizens, indigent persons, and disabled residents of West County."
     The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment, an injunctions, and damages for age discrimination, disability discrimination, and violations of state health, safety and welfare codes.
     They are represented by Pamela Price, of Oakland.