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Coalition for Health Planning, San Francisco

For Immediate Release May 19, 2009
Contact: Shum Preston 510-273-2276 or Nato Green, 510-273-2269

Registered nurses from across San Francisco, along with a wide array of healthcare advocates, seniors, immigrants, neighborhood groups, and caregivers, will come today before the San Francisco Health Commission to express significant community opposition to Sutter/CPMC’s city-wide plan being reviewed by the Department of Public Health.

Public health advocates charge that CPMC’s plans would shift resources from serving a broad mix of patients, including medically underserved patients and seniors, towards a new regional business model focused on attracting fewer but more affluent patients to upscale health destinations.

The hearing on Sutter’s Institutional Master Plan will take place Tuesday, May 19th at 2:00 p.m. at the Department of Public Health hearing room, 101 Grove St. The Health Commission will accept written public comment until June 16 before finalizing their report.

The community coalition specifically expressed concerns over Sutter’s:

  • Devastation of the City’s Medicare beds, with an 82 percent cut from 208 “skilled nursing facility” beds at Sutter’s San Francisco locations today, to just 38 by the year 2014—despite the aging of San Francisco’s population. There is no capacity to absorb these patients anywhere else in San Francisco.
  • Significant loss of City’s medical resources, with Sutter proposing to downsize St. Luke’s Hospital acute-care beds from 150 to just 86, and completely eliminate the 81 psychiatric beds at CPMC, despite City projections of a 25 percent acute-care bed shortage over the next 20 years.
  • Extensive clustering of remaining medical services at Cathedral Hill, cutting off patients in the medically underserved Southern half of San Francisco, while leaving all patients dependent on an over-burdened traffic corridor. This would be especially dangerous during a natural disaster or public health emergency.

Taken together, these developments constitute a betrayal of Sutter’s obligation as a nonprofit organization to work against healthcare disparity in the City, as well as its commitment to the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Future of St. Luke’s Hospital to rebuild the facility without a significant loss of care capacity. FY 2006 data from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (last year available) found that Sutter received $70,527,282 in tax benefits from being a non-profit organization--but only provided $8,384,154 in charity care.

“We need beds for seniors and Medicare patients. We need care for our psychiatric patients. We need a network of acute-care and emergency departments spread across the city caring for patients near their homes,” said Jane Sandoval, an RN at St. Luke’s Hospital. “We don’t need a luxury, high-rise hospital flanking one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the City being paid for by cutting back on basic medical services.”

“Across the Bay Area, Sutter is cutting back healthcare resources that serve everyday Californians, and building new, high-end facilities oriented toward a smaller, wealthier clientele,” said Zenei Cortez, RN, co-President of the California Nurses Association.

“There is a public health interest in the equitable distribution of healthcare services in San Francisco, and in a system that provides care for everyone regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. For CPMC to propose a high-tech hospital on Van Ness Avenue while marginalizing the role of St. Luke's Hospital, one of two hospitals currently south of Market St., does not meet either standard. The Blue Ribbon Panel was an important vehicle to help keep St. Luke's open, but it did not achieve an adequate commitment from CPMC to make it a vital community resource in the Mission for seniors, women, children, and the entire population in the South of Market areas. I urge the Health Commission to find the CPMC Institutional Master Plan unacceptable,” said Bob Prentice, a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Future of St. Luke’s, on behalf of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

The Coalition for Health Planning--San Francisco is a labor/community coalition convened to establish principles of health justice, participatory planning, and equity as the basis for healthcare planning decisions by the City and County of San Francisco

The Coalition for Health Planning--San Francisco includes the Ad Hoc Committee of Doctors for Corporate & Government Healthcare Responsibility, Bernal Heights Democratic Club, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, California Nurses Association/NNOC, Cathedral Hill Neighbors Association, Cathedral Hill Tower Condo Association, Democratic County Central Committee, Dolores Street Community Services, SF Gray Panthers, Roma Guy, La Raza Centro Legal, League of Young Voters, Neighborhood Network, North Mission Neighbors, PODER, Pride At Work, Senior Action Network, SF Day Labor Program, and Young Workers United.

Sutter Health and CPMC's years-long efforts to close St. Luke's Hospital, including ratcheting down of vital services and under-training of clinical staff, are palpably racist and anti-working class, as CPMC treats 1/6 to 1/7 the proportion of poor and minority patients as St. Luke's, and closing St. Luke's will leave Latino, African-American, and other low-income area residents with no acute care beyond the already overtaxed SF General Hospital. See CNA leaflet on Sutter's Medical Red-lining.

Read Dec. 5, 2007 SF Chronicle article "Medical Staff Criticize St. Luke's Plan."

Read Sept. 19, 2007 SF Bay Guardian article "Sutter Bleeds St. Luke's."

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