Arena will be nightmare for child patients

As the mothers of children who receive treatment for severe congenital heart defects at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, we were dismayed to read Quentin Kopp’s misguided and factually inaccurate op-ed supporting construction of a new arena for the Golden State Warriors less than 1,000 feet from the hospital’s emergency entrance.

Kopp states that the arena would be constructed “without taxpayer financing.” But in fact, according to The City’s Budget and Legislative Analyst, the arena traffic management plan would create a $29.9 million shortfall that city taxpayers would have to fund, most likely through bonds. In exchange for this large up-front investment of city money, the arena is projected to only contribute $1.5 million per year to The City in net tax revenues.

However, our biggest concern is not the fiscal irresponsibility of this proposal but rather how such an arena would affect our children’s safety. As parents of children with rare diseases that require specialized treatment, we are dependent on access to the specialists at UCSF hospital, particularly in a medical emergency. And unfortunately for our children, it is only a question of when, and not if, such an emergency will arise.

Despite the traffic management plan’s exorbitant cost, the plan is laughably inadequate and would not mitigate traffic from 18,000 people arriving at the arena within a small window of time, particularly on days when there is also a game at nearby AT&T Park. It is projected that the arena would host approximately 225 events per year, meaning that emergency access to the hospital would be compromised on a majority of days and evenings throughout the year.

In addition, we are very concerned about the impact of arena noise and crowds on the quality of life of patients and their families. When a child is seriously ill in the hospital, parents are a critical component of the medical team and are at their children’s bedsides night and day. The hospital essentially becomes the family’s home, often for weeks or months at a time. Having a critically ill child is difficult and stressful enough without having the added burden of having to deal with noise, pollution and traffic from stadium crowds.

We are incredibly fortunate to have a world-class children’s hospital here in our city. We know families who travel thousands of miles from their homes to receive the specialized treatment available at UCSF. But we are concerned that an arena in the neighborhood could jeopardize the quality of care at the hospital.

Night nurses begin their shifts at 7 p.m., close to the 7:30 p.m. start time for basketball games. If nurses are late due to traffic, it could interfere with the transition between care teams, requiring day nurses to work overtime until their replacements arrive and raising the risk of medical errors due to fatigue.

Furthermore, many of the physicians who work at UCSF are leaders in their fields who would be welcomed at any children’s hospital in the world. If the arena negatively affects working conditions at the hospital, UCSF would have a difficult time finding replacement physicians of such high caliber.

So is this arena plan a good deal, as Quentin Kopp says? Certainly it is for the Warriors’ millionaire owners, who stand to make a fortune from concession sales. But there is no compelling argument to justify the traffic, noise and pollution this project would bring to the Mission Bay area and the threat it would pose to our children’s lives.

Jennifer Wade and Sarah Bennett are San Francisco residents whose children are patients at the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Mission Bay.

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