San Pablo Doctors Medical Center parcel tax, Measure J (November 2011)

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A West Contra Costa County parcel tax for the San Pablo Doctors Medical Center, Measure J ballot question was on the November 15, 2011 ballot for voters in West Contra Costa in Contra Costa County, where it was handily approved.[1][2]

The new tax is $47 per single-family home. Owners of small multi-unit residential properties will pay $94 per year. Owners of small commercial and industrial parcels will pay $282 per year. Owners of medium-sized parcels will owe $470. Owners of larger ones will have to pay $940 per year.

The new tax begins on July 1, 2012. It is expected to raise $5.2 million in new taxes a year. The tax will extend indefinitely, unless the emergency room or the hospital closes.[3]

The purpose of the tax is to keep the San Pablo Doctors Medical Center open. In 2004, the hospital was also on the brink of closing. That year, voters approved a $52/year parcel tax to keep it open. The new tax will be on top of that old tax.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said before the election, "the hospital will most likely close next year" if voters fail to approve the new tax. When it became clear on election night that Measure J had been approved, Gioia said, "We're very pleased that voters recognize the importance of keeping this hospital open. This gives us some breathing room to work out a long-term sustainable financial model."[4]

A two-thirds supermajority vote was required for passage.[1]

Aftermath: Hospital closes

Despite approval of this tax and a previous tax in November 2011, the board of the Doctors Medical Center voted four-zero to close down the hospital on April 21. The vote was held at a board member meeting on March 26, 2015, where one out of the five board members abstained from voting.[5]

Board chairman Eric Zell said, “It’s tragic that in today’s healthcare system that a safety-net hospital that brings services to the poor and to the elderly is being lost at a time when we actually think and hope that we’re providing a better healthcare system to our community. … In the case of west county, that’s clearly not the case.”[5]

According to Harold Emahiser, financial adviser to the Doctors Medical Center, the hospital was run very efficiently. Although the hospital operated with 24 percent lower costs per patient than other hospitals in the area, 90 percent of the hospital's patients were on Medi-Cal, on Medicaid or uninsured. This left the hisptial running with an annual deficit of between $18 and $20 million. Emahiser said, "The issue isn’t if the hospital was only run better. It’s not a cost issue. It’s reimbursement. That’s a discouraging thing because there’s no fix found internally, it has to come from outside.”[5]

Election results

Measure J
Approveda Yes 25,745 74.01%
Election results are from the Contra Costa County elections office.


The El Cerrito City Council voted to endorse a "yes" vote on Measure J on October 17. The resolution passed by the city council said in part, "Preventing the closure of the only full service emergency room serving all West County residents is critical to all El Cerrito residents."[6]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Measure J: To prevent the closure of the only full service emergency room serving all West County residents and to maintain critical services, such as intensive care, women’s health services including early breast cancer detection, treatment for heart attacks, care for elderly, emergency respiratory care, and cancer treatment, shall the West Contra Costa Healthcare District authorize an annual special tax, including forty seven dollars per single family residential parcel, with annual audits by an independent citizens oversight committee?[7]

See also

Additional reading