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article imageLabor reps & nurses demand terms before new SF hospital is built Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jun 11, 2011 in Politics
San Francisco - Opponents to the “Master Plan” for a new hospital to be built at a cost of $2 billion by California Pacific Medical Center showed up on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall for a 12- Noon rally on June 8.
They demand that CPMC commit to a Development Agreement with the City.
Dozens of people from many different parts of San Francisco showed up with signs and banners. Some of the signs read “stop corporate greed.”
Each was there representing various coalitions, collectives and neighborhood groups, they shouted for equity that Wednesday.
Alex Tom of the Chinese Progressive Association and Rachel Ebora of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center lead the people in chants of unity, shouted enthusiastically in English, Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog. The diverse mix of people all were united in their concerns about healthcare and the impact CPMC’s expansion plans will make upon the City.
Many consider the Master Plan of CPMC as a conglomerate grab for power and an effort to monopolize hospital services.
Some motorists driving by City Hall beeped horns along with a few passersby on foot shouting out in show of their support.
The Rally mentioned the proposal of a Community Benefits Agreement (as part of the development agreement between the City & County of SF and CPMC) as a safeguard in the plans. The Good Neighbor Coalition, the Coalition for Health Planning of San Francisco and Jobs With Justice prepared and formally presented it to Mayor Edwin Lee on that day of the rally.
This agreement-outline calls for establishing “direct negotiations with CPMC “asking for considerations in “providing parallel provisions when appropriate,” which in essence seeks to ensure that CPMC reaches to the highest level, in fulfilling the medical needs of the entire City.
The ‘term sheet’ for the Community Benefits Agreement asks that CPMC takes any building or hospital expansion plans with the City very seriously, “leading up to any legally binding agreements” said the one-page letter that accompanied the seven page agreement outline proposal.
On the first page of that Community Benefit Agreement outline was the increase of “access to affordable, quality healthcare,”
As the largest and most profitable of San Francisco’s nonprofit hospitals, CPMC has an obligation to provide charity care. The prevailing message at the rally that Wednesday was that CPMC with its tax-exempt status had better fulfill its obligations.
Tallying to about 50 to 60 people, those gathered represented more than 50 organizations from various parts of the City. The theme of the rally/press conference was “Rebuild CPMC The Right Way!”
Coordinated by “Jobs with Justice” and others, the spotlight of the rally was CPMC’s “Master Plan,” which seeks to provide a “state-of-the-art”, up-to-date hospital and medical center that will serve the entire City.
A major part of that “Mater Plan” is to build a main hospital at Geary Blvd and Van Ness Ave, where the former Jack Tar Hotel used to be, which once completed would then be the command center for CPMC’s system of medical facilities in San Francisco.
Critics of the Master Plan believe that the Cathedral Hill site of the 50-year old hotel is not the best place for a major 555-bed hospital. Critics say such a spot will create more traffic congestion. Its location only hindering access to healthcare services for the outlying areas and make it more difficult for the underserved southeastern sectors of the City.
CPMC is affiliated with Sutter Health, Inc. Since 2007 when the plans for CPMC renovation and growth was made public, the local community began to question the plans because CPMC intended to shut down long-standing hospital facilities like St. Luke’s in San Francisco’s Mission District.
CPMC sought to consolidate or phase out portions of St. Luke’s mostly because of rising healthcare costs that by the 1990’s were spiraling out of control forcing the Episcopal Church to relinquish ownership.
With St. Luke’s future in the balance, the outcry from the community called CPMC into account by petitioning the SF Board of Supervisors to intervene. Spearheaded by then Supervisor Michaela Alioto-Peer with the help of Director of Public Health Dr. Mitch Katz, MD, a Blue Ribbon Committee was formed to save St. Luke’s, one of the City’s oldest hospitals.
A lengthy and arduous process, CPMC adjusted its initial vision to ensure St. Luke’s was an integral part of its Master Plan. Much of the concern from those crucial series of meetings was the future of healthcare for the underserved areas of the City. St. Luke’s and San Francisco General Hospital are the only hospitals that directly serve the uninsured of the City.
Before St. Luke’s was under the control of CPMC, it had been a charity hospital owned and operated by the Episcopal Church and Diocese of San Francisco. Along with SF General, it has been serving the needs of the poor and working class for more than a century.
The Blue Ribbon Committee was followed up by a series of community meetings and advisory committee hearings as part of an inclusive public-private planning process to ensure that California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) continued to bear its appropriate share of responsibility for the health care needs of all San Franciscans.
With each step of the way, CPMC has been scrutinized and reviewed by city officials. This past March CPMC underwent a public hearing before the SF Planning Commission about its Master Plan.
At that March hearing CPMC representatives urged City officials to keep in mind that San Francisco needs a fully equipped hospital in the event of a major disaster. At present no hospital in San Francisco is fully compliant with current seismic and health safety codes. State Law has mandated these safety codes for hospitals. All hospitals must be in compliance by 2030.
California Nurses Association among others has been very vocal in its criticism of CPMC’s plans. They cite numerous occasions where CPMC has not honored its contract. Nato Green, labor representative for the California Nurses Association has said previously that CPMC has been difficult in upholding its agreements with workers. He did not respond to requests for comment about the June 8 rally for this article.
Sal Roselli, Interim President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, told the crowd that Sutter Health Inc. is the most prolific in its expansion and that in all the various contract negotiations NUHW was a part of, those that went on workers strike involved Sutter Health Inc.
Those in favor of the Master Plan see the conflict with the nurses association and other unions as simply a labor contract dispute. Because of the enormity of the plans, some say this makes CPMC more vulnerable to labor union negotiation power-grabbing opportunities.
“Jobs with Justice” is a national network of local coalitions that bring together labor unions, faith groups, community organizations, and student activists to fight for working people. JWJ was brought into the struggle between CPMC and labor unions like the California Nurses Association over a year ago.
In December of 2010, JWJ helped to organize a rally with California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano as one of the discussion panel speakers. He represents the 13th District of which San Francisco is part. Ammiano is among the most critical of CPMC’s plans. He expressed skepticism and doubts CPMC’s sincerity even with the Blue Ribbon Committee results.
Since that Dec. rally JWJ has played a pivotal role as a community organizer and potential arbiter. Founded over 20 years ago, JWJ works in more than 40 cities in 25 states across the country.
JWJ seeks to ensure that the many voices of the larger community are heard loud and clear, “health care in San Francisco must be for everyone,” as SF Supervisor David Campos said in his brief address to the crowd at the rally. SF Supervisor David Chiu also showed his support by having one of his legislative aids read a statement.
Like Ammiano and others close to the social and political circles of the City, Campos is skeptical as well as vigilant towards any ambitious plans that will impact the future of the City.
“It is not about CPMC, he said to the crowd on the steps of City Hall, this is about the future of all healthcare in San Francisco,” said Campos. “Everyone (in every neighborhood) counts, San Francisco is ready to fight (to stand up) and be heard.”
“Sutter Health, Inc. has some serious allegations against them,” said Campos "and San Francisco is not going to tolerate that,” he said.
During the 45-minute rally, many like the nurses association stepped up to speak about various allegations CMPC/Sutter Health has been called into account for.
Some of those allegations are discrimination in hiring procedures, creating obstacles for workers to form a union, failure to properly ensure patient safety when drawing up outsourcing contracts with other providers, and to honor its tax exempt status by providing more and quality outreach to the poor, etc.
Some at the rally viewed CPMC’s “Master Plan” as another example of corporate greed. Antonio Luna, a senior citizen and resident of the Excelsior District, said "such greed is a dividing factor in a community and erodes democracy.”
The Excelsior, like the Mission, Bernal Heights and Bayview is among the underserved districts of the City.
Chris Jackson, Executive Director of Visitacion Valley Community Center said to those gathered that day that neighborhoods like Bayview is not served. “Stop the gentrification,” said Jackson. “Show respect for the people,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of CPMC, media representative Kevin McCormack said, “CPMC is already spending $1.9 billion dollars to build two new, earthquake safe hospitals,” (a revitalized St. Luke’s and Pacific Campus location in SF).
He did not speak to the crowd but corresponded later with this reporter, after the rally.
“This money will create 1,500 union construction jobs and revitalize two communities that are struggling in these hard times. Last year we also spent more than $100 million to pay for health care for the poor, the uninsured and underinsured, and to care for Medi-Cal patients,” said McCormack.
“In fact $15 million of that money, said McCormack, was for charity care alone, that’s more than any other hospital in San Francisco – with the exception of San Francisco General.”
McCormack insisted that no hospital has a more generous charity care policy than CPMC.
“CPMC is happy to do its fair share,” he said. McCormack surmised that much of the presentation at the June 8 rally like the previous one back in Dec. of 2010 focus on other issues not actually related to the hospital building plans.
“Their demands (at the rally) didn’t seem to be just on health, he said. “They were asking for funding for a variety of issues such as affordable housing, etc.” Since CPMC purchased the land at Cathedral Hill concerns about residents and businesses being disenfranchised have been a worry.
“What CPMC is being asked to do is not fair. And it’s not feasible,” said McCormack.
McCormack noted to this reporter later that day, “the City is asking CPMC to spend an additional $1.9 billion to get approval for the rebuilding plans.”
“Now these community groups say that is not enough he said, and want more.” “Their demands are threatening to sink CPMC’s project and all the jobs and all the benefits that go with it,” said McCormack.
Speaking on behalf of Jobs With Justice, Gordon Mar noted, “for legal reasons, the development agreement can't address some community concerns such as ensuring fair labor rights for all CPMC employees.”
But he insisted that a Community Benefits Agreement is also important because “it would give community stakeholders and the City, the legal right to enforce the terms in the event that CPMC does not comply with their agreed upon commitments,” said Mar.
Exactly how such an agreement can be legally binding and enforced is not explained at this moment. The City Attorney’s Office must review all the details.
“CPMC is currently talking with the Mayor and his office to try and come up with a balanced approach to a develop," said McCormack.
More about California Pacific Medical Center, master plan, Jobs With Justice, labor rally, Cathedral Hill
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