Negotiations are ramping up again for a new 555-bed hospital on Cathedral Hill, as the California Pacific Medical Center made an offer to the Mayor’s Office last week to pay $1.1 billion in community benefits over 10 years to mitigate the loss of beds at St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission district.
The offer follows a request from Mayor Ed Lee in May that CPMC pay annually toward transit and affordable housing to the tune of $108 million, an amount that CPMC officials called “fiscally infeasible” and said would cost $2 billion over a hospital’s average 50-year life.
Plans for the new facility and a reduction of rooms and service at St. Luke’s are part of the larger goal of upgrading CPMC’s network of campuses in San Francisco by making them earthquake-safe and meeting health care demand, according to officials.
The new community benefits amount is more manageable and an “unprecedented commitment,” according to CPMC spokesman Kevin McCormack, who said some of that $1.1 billion includes resources already provided to San Francisco in charity care.
McCormack said some of the money will be used for the creation of a new Center for Tenderloin Health for low-income and underinsured patients, and a Center for Excellence in Community Health at St. Luke’s. Christine Falvey, a spokesman for Lee, said the mayor is considering the proposal and would likely have more to say about it at the end of the week.
A press event held at St. Luke’s on Wednesday had doctors calling for CPMC’s plans to move forward and an end to political wrangling over the issue, which has broiled on for about six years. A smaller hospital would be built next door to the current St. Luke’s, resulting in a reduction of potential beds from 230 to 80.
Dionne Miller, CPMC’s chief administrative officer, said the bed reductions and reduced long-term care services are based on simple demand, and that the resources would be moved elsewhere in the hospital system’s other locations.
Dr. Christian Tuan, a physician at St. Luke’s for the past eight years, said talks between CPMC and hospital workers over the past few years have caused most of the same employees who opposed CPMC’s original plans at St. Luke’s a few years ago to now wholeheartedly support it.
“The vast majority do,” Tuan said.
Dr. Michael Treece, who has been at St. Luke’s since 1997, said a truncated version of St. Luke’s would be a shame. He said low-income residents in the neighborhood might be forced to take buses to other hospitals in San Francisco.
“There are a lot of things that go into this building,” Treece said. “I’m all in favor of a rebuild, just a little bigger.”
A coalition of community and labor groups organized against CPMC’s plans blasted the new offer to The City, and said not even the mayor’s initial demands went far enough.
“Sutter/CPMC’s vague proposal for a new ‘health center’ in the Tenderloin is purely smoke and mirrors, given that they could easily support one of many existing Tenderloin-based clinics, already struggling to stay afloat,” the release said. “As a nonprofit, Sutter/CPMC has a responsibility to provide generous care, good jobs and new infrastructure for its new development.”
Miller said a Planning Commission hearing in August could move the hospital plan forward to a decision by the Board of Supervisors in late fall. She said the hospital still plans to open its doors in 2015.