California Pacific Medical Center’s California campus is home to a program that offers care for 22 elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

CPMC in spotlight again over Alzheimer’s program closure

Just weeks after backlash prompted the California Pacific Medical Center to delay the closure of the last subacute care unit in San Francisco, the hospital system is under fire again for removing different services.

This time, another group of families has criticized the healthcare provider for planning to close a program serving 22 elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at the CPMC California Campus, located at 3700 California St. in Presidio Heights.

CPMC touts the Irene Swindells Alzheimer’s Residential Care Program as “the only medical-based center in the Bay Area.” The program offers “home-like” care while also featuring a security system preventing patients from wandering away.

But CPMC is expected to shutter Swindells in late 2018 as it prepares to close the California Campus, according to Jim Macksood, CPMC Sutter Health vice president for external affairs.

Families spoke out at a joint meeting between the Planning Commission and Health Commission last Thursday to discuss the future of CPMC in San Francisco. The hospital chain plans to close and open several facilities around The City.

“Moving Karl is my worst nightmare,” said Ann Ludwig, whose 78-year-old husband is a patient with advanced Alzheimer’s. “We cannot agree to something that would destabilize our loved ones’ health.”

The news comes after plans to close the subacute unit at St. Luke’s drew scrutiny from the Board of Supervisors last month.

Families worried their bedridden loved ones would die if they were displaced from the last center of its kind in San Francisco. In response, CPMC Sutter Health announced it would find another facility to provide around-the-clock care for the patients in The City.

“The question of what happens to Swindells is larger than what happens to these families involved,” said Shari Gropper, whose husband died July 29 while in the program. “San Francisco needs to assure good quality, affordable residential care for its fragile [elders with dementia].”

CPMC spokesperson Dean Fryer said in an email that “there are there are a variety of top-tier Alzheimer’s care providers in San Francisco and the immediate Bay Area.”

“We realize the closing of the Swindells unit is a hardship for the 22 patients and their families who have received such excellent care there,” Fryer said. “The several-year transition process has allowed us to work with the families to identify the best care options for their loved ones. That process will continue.”

Fryer said CPMC has had a “well-known plan” to replace the California Campus with housing and build two new hospitals in The City for years.

At the joint-commission hearing, the families said CPMC notified them that Swindells was closing Aug. 8.

Linda Rosario said relocation options are limited for her nearly 103-year-old mother.

“At this point, we have no funding for my mother’s care pretty soon and to seek other facilities will cost $8,000, $10,000 [or] $12,000 a month, which we do not have,” Rosario said. “With Swindells gone, I do not know what to do next.”

Macksood said CPMC notified families earlier this year of the impending closure of the Alzheimer’s program to “give them a long leeway.”

“We are already talking with other providers in San Francisco for a group solution should that be something we can work out and is amenable to families,” Macksood said. “We understand the challenge this presents to those families and the patients, and we are going to continue to work with them to hopefully find a solution.”

Dawn Astorga, whose mother is a Swindells patient, said she does not have an issue with the move “as long as they’re moved together and they’re allowed to stay together with the staff who loves them.”

“The staff is their family when we’re not there,” Astorga said. “They know them.”

Health Commission President Dr. Edward Chow said the closure “should rise” to a hearing at a Health Commission meeting.

“I’m hoping that as a preventive and preemptive strike that we can look at that issue also as part of our needs in postacute care for our city,” Chow said.

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