Community groups fear loss
of critical hospital services
Members of the Bay Area Organizing Committee (BAOC) held a meeting
yesterday at St. Mary's Cathedral to address impacts of cost cutting
on health care delivery service.
Photos by John
September 13, 2007
Members of the Bay Area Organizing Committee (BAOC) convened
last night with San Francisco elected officials to push equal
health care access for all city residents.
The meeting at St Mary's Cathedral and focused on needs for emergency
room and acute care services at St Luke's Hospital, which is now
a California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) owned by Sutter Health.
Located in the southeast region of San Francisco, St Luke's has
long provided charitable hospital services to a predominately
low income African American and Latino community.
But services have become less accessible for residents in the
area since CPMC merged with St. Luke's.
"There are no profits to be made in serving the poor,"
said Dr. Bonita Palmer who trained at San Francisco General Hospital
and served seventeen years on staff at St. Luke's Hospital. "That
is why so many doctors refuse to accept MediCal and why many hospitals
do not seek to attract these patients."
Despite CPMC's promises that St. Luke's would remain an acute
care hospital with an emergency room, Palmer said she had witnessed
significant cut backs in services since CPMC took over.
She provided emotional testimony of reductions in healthcare
services from severe down grading of the hospital's neonatal nursery
to the closure of its inpatient psych unit and outpatient clinic.
"Lately it's been intimated that that we cannot afford anymore
MediCal patients at our hospital, and that the closure of acute
care is inevitable," Palmer said.
Acute care is the treatment of injuries or illnesses that may
be temporary but serious, often requiring emergency care.
CPMC is looking towards spending $1.2 billion on a new mega hospital
located at the site of the Cathedral Hill Hotel on Geary and Van
The project provides for a five-year demolition and construction
period, eleven hundred parking spaces, four-thousand employees
and an estimated five-thousand visitors a day.
If approved, other CPMC campuses would relocate their acute care
and hospital services to the new campus and serve as administrative
and ambulatory care centers.
There is apprehension that approval of the project would mean
the relocation of St. Luke's emergency room and acute care services
to the new campus as well.
"If St. Luke's were to close we would have only one hospital
on the southeast part of the city," said Dr. Mitch Katz,
Director of the Department of Public Health.
San Francisco Public Health Director, Dr. Mitch Katz
He noted that the city's poorest populations are located in that
region calling them, "the poorest individuals who have the
lowest access to care."
"We desperately need to maintain St. Luke's Hospital. We
need it for the emergency room" Katz said.
People voiced outrage and concern over what is expected to be
the shutting down of St. Luke's emergency room.
Supervisor Michaela Alioto-Pier said she would vote for legislation
calling for a master health care plan involving a review of the
city's health care needs. She said that she understood healthcare
issues "in a very deep way."
District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier
As District 2 supervisor, which includes CPMC California and
Pacific campuses, she said she would be watching "very closely
what they do."
Alioto-Pier has called a hearing to be held October 11 at 1pm
at City Hall.
Also in attendance at the meeting were BAOC organizations including
St. Mark's Lutheran, the Islamic Society of San Francisco, St.
John the Evangelist, First Unitarian Universalist and SEIU Local
Mayor Gavin Newsom was confirmed and scheduled to speak at the
event, but did not attend.