health-care.jpgDozens of healthcare advocates, housing activists, union members and neighborhood representatives gathered outside City Hall this morning to urge city leaders to revise a proposed agreement with California Pacific Medical Center.

Mayor Ed Lee and CPMC CEO Warren Browner today announced the proposed development agreement that would allow CPMC to build two new hospitals in the city–an 80-bed facility to replace the existing 200-plus-bed St. Luke’s Hospital and a 555-bed hospital on Cathedral Hill.

The new hospitals would meet state seismic requirements that the current St. Luke’s campus does not meet.

It has taken the mayor and hospital representatives about a year to reach the tentative agreement, which still has to go before the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission.

In a statement issued today, Lee called the partnership with CPMC “an unprecedented investment in the future of our city.” The agreement stipulates that CPMC will provide $115 million toward affordable housing, transit improvements, and streetscape improvements, among other provisions.

The representatives who rallied on the steps of City Hall this morning–who are part of the citywide coalition San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice–said the agreement is flawed and that CPMC needs “to be rebuilt the right way.”

Opponents of the agreement say that Sutter Health, under which CPMC operates, is not paying its fair share to the city and its residents, given the impacts on healthcare services and the environment that the hospitals will have.

The group said it is urging those in power “to ensure that this development agreement blessing does not turn into a curse for the City of San Francisco” because it says the agreement is bad for healthcare, for jobs, for housing, for traffic and for taxpayers.

Many hospitals are already clustered within walking distance of Cathedral Hill while San Francisco General Hospital is essentially the only option for those patients seeking emergency care south of Market Street.

Department of Public Health Director Barbara Garcia has said St. Luke’s hospital “is crucial to serving low-income residents in the city’s southeastern neighborhood.”

Opponents are concerned that shrinking the St. Luke’s campus would disproportionately affect women, children, seniors and people of color.

Jane Sandoval, a nurse who has worked for the St. Luke’s emergency department for 26 years, said, “St. Luke’s was once referred to as a gem in the Mission District.”

According to the advocacy group the Chinese Progressive Association, St. Luke’s serves the highest percentage of Medi-Cal and charity care patients of all the CPMC campus.

“If CPMC does its fair share and meets the community’s needs, it can shine once again as a gem, not just in the Mission but in San Francisco,” Sandoval said.

CPMC asserts that low-income patients will receive better care at the smaller replacement facility.

According to the mayor’s office, CPMC has agreed to a 20-year commitment to operate St. Luke’s and to significantly increase the number of low-income and underserved San Franciscan patients for which it cares.

Mayor Lee will introduce the proposed agreement and associated legislation at the Board of Supervisors’ April 3 meeting. The Planning Commission will hold an initial hearing on the CPMC project and the development agreement on April 5 at 10 a.m.

The commission is expected to consider approval of the project and certification of its environmental impact report later in April, while hearings at the Board of Supervisors are expected to begin in June.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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