Nurses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital are working to place a measure on the November ballot that would strip Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s name from the public facility.
The former San Francisco General Hospital was renamed in 2015 after a $75.5 million donation to the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
However a group of registered nurses at the hospital have put forward a resolution “expressing the will of the people of San Francisco that the name of their public hospital be restored as San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.” The effort was endorsed Thursday by a vote of SEIU Local 1021, which represents the registered nurses at the hospital.
Citing concerns over the hospital’s privatization, patient safety and Facebook’s mishandling of user data and transparency issues, the employees are hoping to get rid of Zuckerberg’s name, but hold on to the donation.
The resolution, which organizers expect to present to the Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks, would also direct city staff to “take all necessary action to restore the name of the public hospital without requiring the return of any previously donated funds.”
“We came up with language for the ballot measure that made it clear that we are not interested in costing The City anymore money and that we are going to be asking Dr. Chan and Mr. Zuckerberg, if voters do choose to restore the name of the hospital to San Francisco General, that we may keep the money that they donated to us back in 2015,” said SEIU 1021 union member Sasha Cuttler, who has worked as a registered nurse at the hospital for over 30 years.
Emphasizing that tax dollars should not be spent on the effort, Cuttler said that the union members hope to pay for the renaming by soliciting private donations and using hospital maintenance funds “to replace the physical signage.”
In 2008, voters approved a $887.4 million bond that financed the construction of a new, seven-story trauma center at the hospital, and another bond measure was authorized in June 2016 for an additional $222 million for the retrofit of older hospital facilities.
Per the resolution, “San Francisco residents have therefore paid approximately 92 percent of construction costs for the hospital.”
Regardless, the City’s Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution on March 3, 2015 to rename the new facility as the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center for a minimum of 50 years.
A spokesperson for the hospital did not comment on the ballot measure, but shared a statement on the naming of the hospital made by CEO Susan Ehrich previously:
“Through their generous gift, Dr. Priscilla Chan, previously a resident physician at the hospital, and Mr. Mark Zuckerberg have significantly contributed to the fulfillment of that mission by allowing us to acquire state-of-the-art technology we use every single day to save patient lives, and by providing continuing support of renovations, improvements in patient care and education. In acknowledgement and appreciation of that gift, our hospital now carries their names. Naming is an important convention in philanthropy that encourages additional donors, and our hospital relies on the support of the community, the City and County of San Francisco, and generous private philanthropy.”
In order to place a measure on the ballot, the hospital workers would have to win buy-in from four supervisors or the mayor by June 18, or collect a total of 9,485 signatures from the public by July 8.
Efforts to reverse the name change are not new, and concerns over whether Zuckerberg’s name should decorate a public hospital that serves mostly low-income and uninsured clients have been voiced by city supervisors in the past.
Late last year, District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin asked the City Attorney’s Office for an opinion on the procedures and liability issues of changing the hospital’s name back. A spokesperson for the City Attorney on Friday declined to comment on the findings of the ruling, citing attorney-client privilege.
Asked whether he would support the ballot measure, Peskin told the San Francisco Examiner that he supported the hospital workers but believes the “most powerful way to do this is to get [the signatures.].”
“I wish them all the success in the world,” said Peskin. “The people of San Francisco paid almost $1 billion for [the hospital] — it’s always been the people’s hospital.”
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, whose district includes the hospital, said that she also supports the effort and would “almost certainly endorse it,” but would first have to see the “language” of the legislation, citing “questions of liability.”
“The taxpayers of San Francisco paid way more money than this one individual to rebuild this hospital,” she said. “Naming it after him, especially with all the controversy and questions we have around Facebook and the role it’s playing in the world and electoral politics, is problematic.”