The future of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo will be determined in the next few weeks. In 2014, incredible community organizing by nurses, doctors, healthcare workers and community residents --especially members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance-- clearly demanded a full service acute care hospital to serve all people in West Contra Costa County regardless of their ability to pay, supporting healthcare is a basic human right.
The RPA successfully made the operation of DMC an issue in the city council elections. This past October, every current Richmond City Council member voted to allocate $15 million for DMC in the Community Benefit Agreement that Chevron offered as part of the refinery 'modernization'. Even Chevron's hand-picked candidates decided they needed to take real steps to save DMC if they hoped to be elected in Richmond.
At the direction of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond City Manger Bill Lindsay developed a funding plan for DMC that would operate the hospital for the next three to five years. As part of this plan, Contra Costa County will waive some interest payments DMC was required to make into the county's financial reserves. A parcel tax in the same amount as those previously approved by West Contra Costa residents --rather than the much larger parcel tax sought last year (which did receive a majority of voter approval but not the required two-thirds)-- is also included in this plan. Indisputably, the Richmond Progressive Alliance successfully fought to save DMC when no one else would.
Now, DMC is faced with how to continue operating until funds from the Richmond plan are obtained. The West Contra Costa Healthcare District Board is considering multiple offers to purchase the land DMC is located on, including those from a for-profit group named Venturatta, an unnamed investor, and a non-profit called Angels Care. Each of these offers would, essentially, purchase the existing DMC land and lease the property back to DMC to operate as a hospital for some period of time while it develops a plan to build a new seismically safe hospital building.
None of the purchase offers represent an ideal solution for DMC. The City of San Pablo has made the most serious offer for DMC's land, but they only offer $11 million in cash and a deed to land already promised to DMC. San Pablo can and should provide a better offer to DMC because it will improve the hospital's chances of survival.
Our campaign to save DMC continues because nurses and the members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance will not let the people of West county be denied basic human rights. We will need to assure that the City of San Pablo, or any other purchaser of DMC's land, acts in the best interest of our community. Moreover, we must work together in 2015 to pass a parcel tax increase (much smaller than Measure C) to help stabilize funding for DMC. Ultimately we need the county to take responsibility and/or a fix to Federal funding, as we finalize a plan to build a seismically safe hospital to ensure that West County's health needs are met in the long run.
Important Step Forward in Saving Doctors Hospital
County Supervisors Forgive $9M Debt
by Mike Parker
The Board of Supervisors made a step toward saving Doctors Hospital on Tuesday, December 2. It passed a resolution waiving $9 million debt repayment. Eduardo Martinez, Melvin Willis, representing ACCE, and Mike Parker, representing the RPA, spoke at the Board along with several nurses and representatives of the CNA in support of this step.
Credit was given to the Richmond Council for providing leadership and for breaking the impass with its designation of $15 million in Community Benefits Agreement funds if others contribute. Supervisor John Gioia was one who responded. Now others are coming to the table to maintain a full service hospital in West County.
This does not mean Doctors is saved yet. There is still a lot of work to do. This issue has to come before the other cities in the County—El Cerrito, Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo—to contribute a share. We need to look for ways that the major corporations in the County, especially the ones that handle hazardous materials, also are required to contribute. Ultimately the County Board of Supervisors itself is responsible for finding the ways to keep Doctors open on a sustainable basis--not just make a contribution to it.
Gioia's motion passed 3-2. (Gioia, Glover, and Mitchoff voted yes; Anderson and Piepho voted no.) There was general recognition that Doctors was in financial difficulty due to low reimbursement rates while having to serve a low wage and indigent population. Nonetheless, Piepho, who shed tears in an earlier discussion about the County's program providing shelter and treatment of pets, suggested that the County giving money for the hospital was an illegitimate "gift."
SB 883 signed by Gov. Brown on September 27
$3M Lifeline for DMC Keeps It Open for Now
This one-time funding will buy a bit more time for Doctors Medical Center and give the district the opportunity to put together a package to keep it open. If you took action to urge Brown to sign SB 883, thank you. All three Team Richmond candidates are committed to doing all they can on Richmond City Council to save the hospital as a full-time, full service facility. That's why they have been endorsed by DMC's greatest champion, the California Nurses Association.
Video: Team Richmond Stands Up for Doctors Hospital
Nurses and the Community Want Doctors Medical Center San Pablo Open!
Several hundred nurses, patients (many in wheelchairs), religious and community leaders, and elected officials marched yesterday [August 5] from Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo to West Contra Costa Health Clinic, where an energetic rally followed.
An array of speakers, from Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to Pastor Donnell Jones, community organizer from New Direction Ministries in Richmond, spoke passionately about the critical need for keeping DMC and its emergency department open as a full-service, acute-care facility.
The California Nurses Association has endorsed Team Richmond candidates.
Governor Jerry Brown Wants to Steal My Home
Healthcare Shouldn't Be a Loan
by Chris Darling
Due to the expansion of Medi-Cal under ObamaCare, my wife and I are now covered by that program. But because both of us are over 55, Jerry can steal our house after we die to cover Medi-Cal's expense of paying for our healthcare. A 1993 law gives states the option to take back all the money spent by Medicaid for the healthcare of recipients over 55 by billing the estate after the recipient (and spouse) die. Because California is taking advantage of this option, Medi-Cal for older people is effectively a long term loan.
SB 1124, a bill to fix the problem, has made its way through most of the legislature. If it passes, which is expected, Jerry has threatened to veto it.
Team Richmond candidates are all putting it on the line for Doctors Medical Center.
Mike, Gayle, and Eduardo, at the rally podiumPhotos: Patsy Byers
There in spirit: Jovanka Beckles, who'd moved for including funds for DMC in the Chevron project at Richmond City Council the night before. For an interview where Jovanka explains how the failure to fund DMC contributed to her abstention on the final Chevron project vote, check out this piece in SF Bayview.
Later that evening, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution urging Contra Costa County to integrate DMC into Contra Costa Health Services as a full-service, acute-care hospital to provide healthcare to all the residents of West Contra Costa County.
Why Doctors Medical Center Can't Close
by Melvin Willis
Back in March 2014 while I was visiting my mom at her home she suddenly lost her breath, and couldn't catch it. Her breathing was so labored she could barely talk. An ambulance came and took her to the nearest public hospital, just 5 minutes from her house—Doctors Medical Center.
The team there quickly went into action and by the time I arrived, she was stabilized. Now, the fate of Doctors Medical Center is undetermined and I keep wondering what if her ambulance drive had been fifteen, or twenty minutes longer? That's about how long it'd take to get to the next nearest public hospital in Oakland.
In the beautiful sunshine last weekend, while cutting down my dead fava beanstalks, I almost lopped off the end of my left thumb. My family has good medical insurance, and as medical emergencies go, I know this one was minor, but nevertheless, I was extremely glad that I could get to a hospital in less than 5 minutes, instead of the 20-30 minutes it would have taken to drive to Alta Bates, or the half-hour-plus that a trip to Martinez would likely involve. Imagine if it were a matter of life or death.
I want to thank everyone, especially nurse Cheryl, who took care of me.
If you need further convincing of the importance of this facility, please watch this video. While the characterization of Chevron's potential role isn't one I'd make, I heartily agree with its perspective on the local community and our need for DMC.
So, on Tuesday, July 1, 3:30-5pm, at DMC, 2000 Vale, SP, I'll be walking the line.
Signed Commentary: Why I Support Measure C
Save Doctors Medical Center
The problem with “crying wolf,” the fable tells us, is that when the wolf really is at the door, nobody will believe you. In the case of Doctors Hospital there is a good chance that this time if we do not get short-term funding, Doctors will actually close, and with it the emergency room that provides around 2/3 of the emergency care in the region.
Even those who have Kaiser coverage will suffer, since its small emergency room will be hugely overcrowded and overwhelmed. The choice of really long waits or traveling to Martinez for emergency service should not be acceptable for anyone. Consider the chaos if there is a major refinery accident, or earthquake injuries. Timely treatment is essential for a heart attack, stroke or a ruptured appendix—even on a busy night.
It is true that the parcel tax method of financing medical care for the West County is an unfair system and burdensome. We need to find an alternative, including demanding that the whole County take over more responsibility. The pollution from the refinery and the threat of serious accidents means that Chevron should also have an obligation to maintain adequate medical care in West County. While we are working on these alternative and sustainable means of funding, we cannot afford to lose these emergency services.
I urge a Yes vote on C and a new campaign to find ways that offer a fair and sustainable funding support for DMC. Completed ballots for this mail-in-only election must be returned by May 6.
Editor’s note: The RPA has not adopted a position on Measure C.
Sugar Kills! How Do We Decrease Consumption?
by Jeff Ritterman, MD
That was the question 12 of us pondered for three hours. We were from the public health, medical, research, academic, advertising and philanthropic communities and had come together to brainstorm.
Each of us was convinced by the accumulating science that sugar was bad, really bad. A change in our thinking had occurred. The old paradigm was that sugar could be bad if you didn't burn off the excess calories. You would become fat, and being fat would make you prone to a host of medical illnesses like diabetes, and heart disease.
We now know that consumption of sugar can kill by causing heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Sugar has also been implicated in fatty liver disease, obesity and dementia. You don't need to get fat to be adversely impacted. Forty per cent of normal weight individuals are metabolically abnormal and at risk. Sugar can kill without us being forewarned by the accumulation of fat around our waistlines.
This is a major paradigm change, in essence, a scientific revolution. I spent thirty years working as a cardiologist without ever once wondering what impact sugar had on the heart. I wasn't alone in that.
How do we prevent the future deluge of chronic diseases? What are the best strategies for lowering sugar consumption? What models are there to learn from?
Our group came up with an impressive list of strategies to reduce sugar consumption.
The Big Soda companies are desperate. Everyone now recognizes and admits that excessive amounts of sugary drinks are dangerous. Sugary drinks are not just another source of calories-they are toxic. The body cannot handle the quantities of sugar that flood the system each time a sugary soda is consumed.
Since they have already lost the science and health argument, Big Soda is now resorting to raising cynical, unfounded doubts about how the money raised by taxing these drinks will be spent. Proponents of the tax say that the money will go to improving child health by paying for sports programs, nutrition education, and numerous other health programs. But spokesmen from Big Soda assert " Not one thin dime" will be used for these purposes.
We reject this cynicism and are convinced that the money will be used to further the health of our citizens:
Five of seven current council members have pledged that they will spend the money for these purposes (Booze and Bates have refused to sign this pledge).
When passed, Measure O on the ballot will put Richmond voters on record as supporting that tax money collected be spent on health initiatives. Any elected official who would divert the money or try to make behind the scenes adjustments after this clear mandate, would simply make a fool of him/herself.
Because of Measure O and the pledges the public will be watching closely to see that funds are spent as designated.
Republican/Tea Party arguments
The campaign against Measure N has become a Richmond version of Republican/ Tea Party propaganda that says that all government is bad. You can never trust elected officials to do what they say they will do so we should get rid of all government programs. This kind of thinking is destroying all of our social safety nets from Medicare and social security to jobs programs. Our answer is that it depends who the elected officials represent -the corporations, wealthy, and lobbyists or the interests of working people and their communities.
And who should you trust on these issues--the paid spokespeople for the beverage companies who are earning big bucks by taking the cynical view of our Richmond City council? Or Richmond residents who have a record of working for the community and have no financial interest in this issue?
Why doesn't Measure N designate the tax directly to child health programs? Why do we need two separate measures?
Conservative forces pushed through a state regulation that requires a 2/3 vote if a ballot measure designates specifically where the money is to be spent. This is an undemocratic rule designed to prevent the majority from making decisions about funding (and explains why although over 65% of voters in the WCCUSD approved more money for the schools in June, yet the measure failed and our schools are suffering). The only way for the voters to designate money for a specific purpose with a simple majority vote is as we are doing here-pass one measure by majority vote to set a the tax and then pass a second advisory measure to specify how the money is to be spent.
But isn't this a regressive tax?
In one sense it is. We generally oppose sales taxes-which hit the poor disproportionately harder. But in this case at least all the proceeds from the tax will go to helping those in the community who need the help most. The rich do not need public athletic fields-they can go to private clubs. The wealthy have insurance and can pay for doctors. This tax will provide health facilities and programs and pay for diabetes treatment for kids that don't have them now. It is not a tax on a necessity. As long as the wealthy don't pay their fair share of taxes we will be in the position of having to use an unfair tax system to fund worthwhile, important programs.
Blacks, Mobilizing, Organizing and Educating Richmond
B-MOER SUPPORTS SUGAR DRINK TAX
The Richmond-based organization, Blacks, Mobilizing, Organizing and Educating Richmond (B-MOER), endorses the FIT for LIFE Sugary Drinks TAX ballot measures.
Every year obesity kills more people in Richmond than those killed by homicides. Sugary Drinks are responsible for 20% of all the excessive weight gain by the US population between 1997 and 2007.
Nicole Valentino a member of B-MOER stated: "These ballot measures are part of the community's response to the serious health challenges facing our youth - including the childhood obesity epidemic we are suffering in Richmond. More than half of our African American children in Richmond are obese or overweight and they are carrying the dire consequences of obesity into adulthood. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma are rampant diseases in our community and we must do something to start saving the children now"
B-MOER believes that as taxes on cigarettes succeeded in reducing consumption of tobacco the 'sugary drinks' ballot measures will begin the process of reduction of excessive consumption of sugary drinks.
"We have turned our face away from the problem and ignored it for too long. It is time to act" added Richard Boyd, another member of B-MOER.
B-MOER endorses the ballot measures in part because they support the shared desire to get our children moving. When passed by the voters, it will provide funds to create increased opportunities for youth organized sports.
Councilmember Jovanka Beckles
Jovanka Beckles, a councilmember and a founding member of B-MOER said "Only a relatively small portion of our Richmond African American children practice organized sports. We need to reverse that and we need to have the funds to create more sport fields to offer support to the clubs, to subsidize registration fees and to expand the educational services offered to those practicing sports."
Ultimately, this is a great opportunity to educate the African American community about healthy living and the consequences of unhealthy living - childhood obesity being one of them. It is a great opportunity to mobilize in defense of our community, and our children in particular. They are after all, the victims who are under attack by those pushing BIG SODA for profit and disregarding our rights to a healthy future.
We invite the community to support the sugary drinks ballot measures and to VOTE Yes! this November to give our kids a healthy chance.
American Association of Retired Persons
AARP Endorses Sugar Tax
"Now it's sugar's turn. Look at the expanding national waistline and it's clear that it's well past time for a tax on the source of most of the sugar we consume - soft drinks and candy. One-third of American adults and nearly a fifth of children are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consider the consequences of the obesity epidemic - diabetes, heart disease and a host of other maladies - and the health care cost explosion they spark. By one count, the annual health care cost of obesity in America is $190 billion, with more than half of that paid by Medicare and Medicaid."
Is this a tax on beverages and food like the ads say?
NO. It is a tax only on those beverages which have additional sugar sweetening added. It does not tax fruit juice or milk or carbonated water or diet drinks without added sugar. And sugar sweetened beverages are not food. They have no nutritional value other than calories and new research shows that they are toxic in large quantities especially for children.
Why do we need a tax?
The tax serves three purposes:
It raises money for more athletic fields for kids and programs to fight childhood obesity and diabetes.
The higher price discourages consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.
Its existence helps stimulate the educational discussion about what is healthy for our kids and what does serious long term damage.
Can't we get the money for the fields and programs in some other way?
Unfortunately, the right-wing has succeeded in blocking action in the legislature and passing state-wide rules that limit the ways that we can raise money for things we need in the community. Schools are being squeezed and are even less likely to have the athletic or health programs our kids need. If we want it for our kids now then we have to do it ourselves.
Isn't this a regressive tax?
Yes, we are only allowed to use regressive taxes to meet the community needs. A regressive tax is one that taxes the poor a greater amount in proportion to income and we support efforts to make the tax system fair. But in this case at least all the proceeds from the tax will go to helping those in the community who need the help most. The rich do not need public athletic fields - they can go to private clubs. Obesity and diabetes are hitting harder in poor and minority communities. Further, it is not a tax on necessities. If people cut their consumption of sugary drinks by just 20% they will pay no more. If they cut out sugary drinks totally they will save money, and be healthier.
How do we know that this money will go to athletic fields and programs to help the kids? Why doesn't the measure say this instead of putting the money in the general fund?
Again, the state rules require a 2/3 vote if the measure specifically designates where the money goes. This was passed as part of the infamous Proposition 13. We and most people who care for democracy oppose 2/3 rules for making basic decisions. Especially in the context of an unbalanced political field where the rich control the money available for campaigns, to allow 1/3 to block action by the overwhelming majority is especially undemocratic. A 2/3 vote is simply too high a bar for most decisions.
It is legal to do this by majority vote as we are doing here if the money goes into the general fund. To make sure that the money is spent as we want, a second advisory measure is on the ballot that specifies how it is to be spent.
But politicians could just spend the money as they want?
It's possible, but that is why you need to pay special attention to whom you elect. An elected official who does not take corporate campaign contributions will certainly follow the will of the people in this. Because there is a ballot measure and a campaign, the will of the people will be both clear and highly visible. And you can be certain by electing candidates who are pledged to these programs.
Won't people just go buy in other cities?
There will certainly be some of that. But we expect that other cities will join in. Movements start with someone going first and showing the way. Our kids are too important to wait for others to start doing something.
Won't this be an unfair burden on business?
The law provides that businesses can calculate how much sugar sweetened beverage is sold simply by comparing their inventories. Businesses will also have flexibility. For example they can decide to promote other beverages by putting them in more prominent positions in the store.
All articles on the RPA website and in the RPA Activist newsletter represent the views of the author. Unsigned text represents the views of the newsletter editor, Patsy Byers, not necessarily those of the RPA. Differing views are welcome. Copyright 2014. Articles may be reprinted by not-for-profit organizations citing authors and source. Send email to RPAActivist@gmail.com