Supervisors approve spending $75 million of Measure X funds for county medical center

Source: Contra Costa Health Services

Will provide garage, medical clinical office, and expanded radiology lab at Contra Costa Medical Center in Martinez; following crackdown, one restaurant still violating COVID-19 health orders as cases increase; appoint new Public Defender

“If you want to send me an email and still want to call me a ‘b***’ go ahead.” – Supervisor Karen Mitchoff in response to critics of her crusade to crack down on restaurants out of compliance with county health orders

By Daniel Borsuk

On a 4-0 vote, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors paved the way for officials of the over-used Contra Costa Regional Medical Center to spend $75 million of Measure X half-cent sales tax funds to construct a parking garage, a medical office complex and a state-of-the-art public health laboratory at Tuesday’s final board meeting of the year. (See CCRMC Proposed Master Plan)

With Board Chair Diane Burgis absent because of the death of her husband Richard Clayton for whom supervisors adjourned the meeting in honor of, supervisors narrowly met the super-majority requirement to tap into 2020 vote-approved sales tax measure revenues for the purpose of enhancing facilities at the over-used medical complex in Martinez.

Contra Costa Public Health Director Anna Roth pitched the three CCRMC capital improvement projects based on the fact the publicly funded medical center in the past year has treated 142,000 patients due to COVID-19, a 540 percent increase.  The center has saved the lives of about 26,000 county residents, 70 percent of whom are on Medi-Cal. Seventy percent of the CCRMC patients do not speak English, Roth noted.

She said the medical center has been crushed with a 540 percent increase in patients seeking medical care over the past 20 years while the physical components of the medical center have been unchanged. Roth also shared there has been at least one case where a pregnant woman had safely delivered her baby in the medical center parking lot because of the unavailability of parking. According to the presentation, three babies were born in the parking lot during the last year. The proposed 325-space parking structure along with valet parking would help alleviate the parking problem, she asserted.

Marianna Moore, chair of the board of supervisors’ appointed Measure X Advisory Committee, cast concern that the supervisors’ action on the medical center capital projects might be premature and negatively hit future Measure X funding of other public services.

“This is a one-time expenditure,” responded District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill. “There will be money for other projects. The longer we delay on capital improvement projects like these the more expensive it becomes.”

Upon acknowledging Measure X chairperson Moore’s comments, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia remarked “I hear the concerns of the Measure X panel for this board to be transparent and open.” Yet, he pointed out how three major local nonprofit health providers – Kaiser Permanente, John Muir and Sutter Medical – skirt regulations that county-operated medical institutions must obey.

“They get an equity worth $25 billion in tax breaks and don’t have to encounter public scrutiny that publicly operated health care operations like Contra Costa County’s have to abide by. I am proud of the public health successes in Contra Costa County, but we need help from the nonprofit health care organizations too.”

In addition to the proposed parking garage, the supervisors’ action paves the way for the medical center to have a $30 million 40,000 square foot medical-clinical office building constructed and a $5 million 5,000 square foot state-of-the-art intervention radiology suite built.

One Restaurant Remains Out of Compliance With COVID-19 Health Order, Mitchoff on the Defense

In a follow up to last week’s meeting where Supervisor Mitchoff questioned the Health Department’s code enforcement capabilities in shutting down 13 restaurants willfully out of health code compliance, Roth announced there is currently only one eatery that is still not following health code requirements.

She did not identify the business. “All but one of the establishments are now in compliance,” said Roth.

Roth said her department has added four code enforcement officers since last week when Mitchoff blew the lid off the health department’s health code performance.

“I appreciate the progress the health department has made,” said Mitchoff. “There is still one restaurant to follow up on. One restaurant will probably have to close.”

Mitchoff, who will serve as board chair next year instead of vice chair Federal Glover of Pittsburg in recognition of her public service as she has announced she won’t seek reelection in 2022, attacked her critics on her crusade to shut down out-of-compliance restaurants.

“There’s recently been vitriolic and unclear language and comments lodged at me,” said Mitchoff, whose been a frequent target of hate emails. “If you want to send me an email and still want to call me a ‘b***’ go ahead. It would be much better if those who dislike me to write letters and that everyone gets vaccinated and wears masks. I hope to start the new year with much more appreciated language.”

County COVID-19 Cases Increase

In the meantime, Roth said Contra Costa County’s vaccination rate of 76.8 percent remains above the national average of 69.9 percent.

The county’s active COVID-19 case load stands at 1,463, an increase of 18.9 percent over a two-week period. Forty-three patients were in hospitals in the county because of COVID-19.

“Ninety-seven percent of the cases in Contra Costa County are of the Delta strain,” remarked Roth. She said there have been signs of the new Omicron variant appearing in wastewater in the county, but nowhere else.

Because of wintertime conditions forcing Californians to hunker down indoors, Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano informed supervisors the State was expected to announce a new indoor public face mask order. The order would be in place through Jan. 15, 2022.

In a related action, supervisors adopted an ordinance calling for the continuation of remotely conducted meetings into January 2022.  The ordinance also applies to commissions and advisory committees.

Ordinance Temporarily Halts North Richmond Fulfillment Center Openings  

In response to increasing vehicle emission air pollution and traffic-pedestrian safety concerns issues stemming from the buildup of fulfillment centers in the unincorporated North Richmond and Richmond areas, supervisors imposed a 45-day moratorium on the opening of new fulfillment centers.

“Richmond and North Richmond have become a major destination for fulfillment centers,” said Supervisor Gioia, whose District 1 cover those areas. “We don’t want North Richmond to become a wall-to-wall fulfillment center magnet.”

The purpose of the ordinance Gioia has introduced is to compel these enterprises to deliver their products with electric vehicles.   It aims to have 33 percent of a company’s fleet of vehicles electrified immediately and by 2027 100 percent of a business’s fleet of vehicles must be electrified.

At least five fulfillment centers are either under construction or planning phase, said John Kopchick, director of the Contra Costa County Conservation and Development Department.

No one from the fulfillment center sector spoke on the ordinance regulating the electrification of vehicle fleets, but Donald Gilmore of North Richmond Recreation said the ordinance does not go far enough.

“North Richmond is significantly impacted by these warehouses and the traffic coming from them. Pedestrian safety is a pressing problem. We need more time to figure out a plan,” said Gilmore.

Appoint New Public Defender

Ellen McDonnell. Source: CCPD

Supervisors promoted Deputy Public Defender Ellen McDonnell as Contra Costa Public Defender at an annual salary of $340,510 in addition to $93,131 in pension annual compensation.  She will officially take over the role of Public Defender from the retiring Robin Lipetzky effective Jan. 1, 2022.

She started with the department in 2001 and will oversee a $36 million budget and 145 employees.

McDonnell holds a Juris Doctors degree from California Hastings College of the Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree and double major in Spanish and Italian from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

She has been a member of the California State Bar since 2011. (Read more about McDonnell in a separate article.)

 

 

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