City tries to stop hospital from flatlining

City officials would be instructed to take strong action to stop St. Luke’s Hospital from closing or downgrading its services in the Mission district, under a proposal to be considered today.

St. Luke’s owner, California Pacific Medical Center, a part of Sutter Health, announced in October that, due to financial reasons, it would stop providing emergency care at St. Luke’s. The hospital, which has operated since 1912, treats a high proportion of low-income patients. Of its emergency care patients, 40 percent are Hispanic and 18 percent are black, according to a city report.

On Wednesday, nearly 100 St. Luke’s doctors, nurses and other employees spilled out of the hospital’s brick building and into a parking lot to cheer an announcement by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier that a “blue ribbon panel” of CPMC executives, and union and government representatives, would plan the future of the hospital.

CPMC president Dr. Martin Brotman wore a large “Save St. Luke’s” badge as he addressed the crowd.

“Something that is desperately needed in this city,” Brotman told the crowd, “is an open, honest planning process that has only one focus — to make sure that we provide the best possible health care.”

After the public announcement, Brotman told The Examiner the company could not commit to keeping the hospital or its acute-care facilities open after 2009.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said. “If you’re going to have an honest process, you have to have all possibilities on the table — and all possibilities are on the table.”

Today a Board of Supervisors committee will consider a resolution authored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi that, if passed by the full board, would instruct city departments to identify any pending applications that would help CPMC close or downgrade the hospital. The resolution would instruct the city attorney to then investigate the company’s requests and take legal action to try and prevent the closures.

jupton@examiner.com

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