Legislation aims for equal access to health services

Expanding or rebuilding hospital projects in San Francisco would face stricter scrutiny under proposed legislation that will require health needs for the entire city be taken into consideration during the approval process.

Controversy is swirling about a plan by California Pacific Medical Center, a Sutter Health affiliate, to build a new hospital at Cathedral Hill. After services are shifted to the new center, the plans include either reducing the size or shuttering other sites around The City.

The legislation, introduced by Supervisor David Campos, is not meant to derail hospital projects, he said. Instead, a master plan would begin closing any gaps in the system and ensure that access to health care and services is evenly distributed across The City.

“There is no document out there that outlines the health care needs of The City as a whole,” Campos said. “For us, as a city, to make good public policy around health care issues, we need to have a better grasp.”

CPMC spokesman Kevin McCormack said his concern is whether the legislation was implemented retroactively, which could bring the hospital project to a standstill.

“We all agree having a plan that creates a more rational way of health care distribution through The City makes sense, but the question is how that plan is implemented,” McCormack said. “It could mean [the hospital plan] is put on hold until a master plan itself is developed.”

Health care advocates have been working at the state level, striving to get local jurisdictions more leverage over proposed hospital projects. The California Nurses Association — which supports Campos’ legislation — says it continues to fight many projects where hospitals are either stripping away much needed services or adding unwanted services.

With the new national health care reform policies being implemented, it’s even more imperative for cities and counties to have a stronger presence when it comes to planning for health care facilities and services locally, said Nato Green, a labor representative for the CNA.

“We believe in the city that launched Healthy SF,” Green said. “It’s logical and appropriate to use the land use process to promote equity in access to health care.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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