High noon for CPMC


CPMC, the health-care giant owned by Sutter Health, has two weeks to convince some very reluctant city officials that its plan to build a flashy new hospital on Van Ness Avenue is at least marginally acceptable.

It might not be possible.

CPMC and Mayor Ed Lee had a deal back in June -- a bad deal for the city, but one that the mayor was ready to push. Then internal documents showed that the hospital folks weren't telling the truth and were looking for ways to shut down St. Luke's, which provides care to the underserved population in the southeast part of the city.

The actual deal is in some kind of suspension now, since CPMC and the mayor aren't anywhere near close to agreement -- but the environmental impact report on the development came up on appeal to the supervisors, and it was clear that there weren't enough votes to approve the document. Rejecting it would have set the project back at least 18 months, probably two years -- and that would spell doom. CPMC is under a state mandate to upgrade the seismic safety of its facilities by 2015, and this Van Ness super-hospital is supposed to replace that aging California St. campus, which doesn't meet state codes.

At the end of a seven-hour hearing, the supes agreed to continue the matter for two weeks after Michael Duncheon, Sutter's general counsel, promised to maybe, sorta, kinda try to reopen talks with the city:

"In the intervening two weeks, CPMC commits to work with the mayor's office and with you. ... CPMC is ready to talk about a structure for future discussions as we all put our heads together."

I other words, we're ready to consider the shape of the bargaining table.

That doesn't go very far, particularly since CEO Warren Browner has been a complete asshole throughout this process. He acts as if he's entitled to do anything he wants with this project and he dismisses community benefits as nonsense. Oh, and guess what? He's not even around right now. He's on vacation.

Sup. Jane Kim made a good point in her remarks:

“The fundamental issue in certifying this EIR, in my humble opinion, is the elephant in the room, which is that there is no proposed project.  The only sponsor of this project, has himself stated that there is currently no project without greater assurance and agreement to stronger language from project sponsor on a commitment to the operation of St. Luke’s."

And she said that if the matter hadn't been continued, she would have voted not to certify the EIR. Sup. David Campos told me that he agreed: "We sent a very clear message that we can kill this thing if we want to," he said.

So now we wait two weeks to see if Browner and his crew will come to their senses. "There's hope," Campos said, "but who knows?" And if CPMC doesn't come back very quickly with a much-better plan, it will be time to start thinking about other options for saving St. Luke's.


I'd be careful on this one. When I see Board President Chiu in his Newsletter indicating to his constituents that he is working hard to make sure that the Sutter Hospital is built, and given the smugness of the Sutter lawyers at the Public Hearing--indicating that the hearings are just something that they need to endure as the deal is "done"--I begin to think that we are seeing simple, last-minute posturing by the Board which reminds me of the bad old days when the Brown Board ran this town.

I have heard by the way, that Brown is a Sutter consulting attorney. From what I've seen of Sutter's tactics, I suspect Sutter has been "consulting" with Brown from the beginning--and that the "idea" to buy St.Luke's came from Brown who knew Sutter had both labor and indigent care problems, ie.that Sutter needed a bargaining chip with an escape clause.

In the old days too, Planning Staff only told the Board what Brown wanted the Board to know. It now appears to me that nothing has changed--except this time Planning Staff have to take the heat for their "oversights".

Posted by Guest Charley_sf on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

This is rather like the 8-Wash thing - people seem fine with the basic concept but want to haggle more "extra's" along with it. Natural and all part of getting things done.

But SF needs this new hospital and few people seriously think it shouldn't be built. We're just quibbling about the trimmings.

Luke's is not viable long-term and everyone knows that. And remember that SFGH is only a mile away.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

SFGH is already overload. In the case of any disaster, SOMA residents will have no place to get care.

Also, if St. Luke's patients will have to go to SFGH, it will affect the SF city finance as many of them are uninsured or in extreme financial hardship. Why city, ultimately we, have to pay while CPMC/Sutter is making profit and CEO is doubling his salary.

CPMC is supposed to be not for profit, but they make the number of their "donation" by renting rooms, providing "available (but still charge you)" classes, or putting info session in street fairs.

Although retrofitting hospitals is crucial, centralizing care would be harmful especially once disaster hits.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

What I object to regarding Sutter is simple: We did not do an ACUTE Care Medical Facilities Master Plan first--a plan that inventories the City's needs, wants and resources, a plan that is advisory to us and not mandatory on Sutter.

Newsom ordered such a plan for SUB-Acute Medical Facilities, and Health Planning wanted to use the template to do the same for ACUTE Care Medical Facilities but was blocked as Sutter is a PPO in competition with Kaiser HMO and wanted to be proximate to Kaiser.

This was what Sutter told their architects when asked why they were shoehorning such a large hospital in the US on the smallest piece of ground.

My view: it might be that the City could have provided a CAMPUS parcel on which Sutter could build a system that would carry them into the next century--a matter I won't elaborate here.

Such an inventory of the City's needs, wants and resources could have provided us that information--and might have served the needs of Sutter better than Cathedral Hill.

This is why we needed to discuss this matter in public fora--but this we are not doing. Instead, we have yet another example of the old adage: "Where does a $2 Billion Dollar Gorilla sit?"

Anywhere it wants to, good or bad--and bad may be that the people on the Westside will have to walk their loved ones to so many Eastside hospitals post-quake. Keep your wheelbarrows handy...

And like you, I object the community shakedown of Sutter on "amenities"--as much as I do the shakedown by a certain Politico who forces major project sponsors to hire him as their 'consulting attorney." All of it is simply a form of legalized racketeering.

Posted by Guest Charley_sf on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

where's the mammoth dinosaur in the room? the carcass is set for construction on a tarpit at geary/van ness. i remember the closure of psych services at st lukes only 6 months after cpmc took the reins. so let them build it without the saftey net st lukes provides for many uninsured patients? i think not.

flashy artist renditions of what rooms in this proposed hospital will look like. something out of some 70s sci fi flick is all snakeoil and showmanship. beneath the glossy veneer are the uninsured/poor, the loss of many jobs for people who have worked and contributed to both california campus/pacific campus for years, and a rich corporation aiming to get fatter.

Posted by Guest eggface on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

from to provide all these needed medical services. If the private sector won't build it, then it won't get built, as the city is broke and can barely maintain SFGH.

Luke's is not a sustainable entity and will perish whoever runs it. And the poor/uninsured can go to SFGH, less than a mile away from Luke's.

We need to build this.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

If Van Ness hospital is built, CPMC will get rid of more uninsured patients to the city. They already have been doing. They often refuse patients transfer from other city if the patients are uninsured.

This plan is to make CPMC more profitable. They took all the unprofitable services from the plan, such as nursing home facilities, dialysis, psychiatric etc..... If this was built, the city has to take care of those patients.

We need bigger St. Luke's hospital and smaller Van Ness hospital, which still give plenty of job to construction and will meet the need of increasing population in SOMA.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 2:30 pm