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California Pacific Medical Center’s Master Plan EIR is reviewed by SF Planning Commission

By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Sep 25, 2010 in Politics
California Pacific Medical Center officially presented its draft of an Environmental Impact Report to the San Francisco Planning Commission to review and for the public to make comment upon this past Sept. 23.
Room 400 at SF City Hall was filled beyond capacity as scores of people stood outside the hearing room doors. Eager to get a seat, they wanted to speak before the planning commission. The on-going struggle for CPMC to implement its future plans to upgrade, build and expand has been clashing with nurses and hospital workers unions in opposition for almost three years.
Some people had sticker-buttons on that read “3+A” and other symbols to show their solidarity with one another and whether they were for or against CPMC’s plans. The stickers referred to the draft of the EIR.
The hearing which began at 1:30 PM lasted for over seven hours.
About 200 or more, showed up and it seems just about all wanted to speak. The overflow not able to enter the hearing room was sent downstairs to the North Light Court area just off the main lobby of City Hall.
the number of so many people, kept swelling. A diverse mixture, professional and civilian from various points of view about the Master Plan, all traversed back and forth amid tourists and newlyweds in the lobby hallway of City Hall.
Echos increased as closed-captioned monitors broadcast the proceedings, making the testimonies heard along the majestic marble staircase. At various times the testimony was not able to be heard because of the amount of people, many chatting among themselves.
California Nurses Association, Physicians Organizing Committee and several hospital workers’ unions were present,. While those opposed to CPMC were visible there were supporters of CPMC who were just as eager to be seen and heard.
Jack Scott of the Neighbors of Cathedral Hill group gave testimony that for CPMC to build a new state-of-the-art complex along the Van Ness Ave corridor would only cause more traffic and congestion problems.
Scott believes that by down-sizing St. Luke’s in the Mission District and to transfer services to the newly built facility would place more strain on SF General Hospital.
Residents and merchants within the vicinity of Cathedral Hill where the former Jack Tarr Hotel once was have reservations about the ambitions of CPMC and the Master Plan. They will be affected by the Master Plan once fully approved and construction gets underway.
Presently, estimates of cost for the new facility to be built at Cathedral Hill are $1.7 billion.
Dozens of patients from the various medical facilities and hospital locations that CPMC manages showed up to have their say over the “Master Plan.” CPMC seeks to get it approved by the planning commission as well as the SF Board of Supervisors.
Among the groups of patients eager to speak was Tatiana Kostianian. She receives kidney dialysis two to three times a week at the main campus of CPMC on Buchanan Street in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights area.
She told this reporter that she is one of 350 dialysis patients that CPMC serves at the main campus on Buchanan Street. “Yet CPMC wants to sell our dialysis care to a for-profit company called DaVita. This DaVita has a history of litigation over patient safety issues,” she said.
Kostianian also said that over 100 patients signed a petition in protest because the current draft of the EIR which the planning commission is reviewing does not include the cumulative effects of this sale upon services. She fears the quality of service will suffer.
Media rep for CPMC, Kevin McCormack spoke to this reporter while at the hearing at City Hall as he said, “As for the EIR not taking this into account that is not true - we factored in that we might need to move some patients from the main campus - as well as our other campuses like Davies and St. Luke's - to the future Cathedral Hill complex at Van Ness Ave and Geary Blvd if they need specialist care.”
Yet, McCormack was assuring as he said, “outpatient dialysis isn't moving - it will remain at the same location at our main Buchanan Street and Davies Medical Center campuses.” "It will be supervised by the same doctors who do that now, and staffed by many of the same people,” he said.
“The only difference is that it will be operated and maintained by DaVita not CPMC,” said McCormack.
For Kostianian and others this is not acceptable. She told the commission at the hearing that Thursday afternoon that “CPMC cannot be trusted.” “We ask you to hold CPMC’s feet to the fire to ensure that our lives are not put in danger by this Master Plan,” she said.
McCormack told this reporter later after the hearing that “In case of emergencies we do have plans in place to care for dialysis patients, just as we do to care for any outpatient who might experience a health emergency.”
This concern over the kidney dialysis was something unknown to this reporter until Thursday's hearing. Details were not clear at time of this report. Other issues were mentioned by the California Nurses Association, such as discriminatory hiring tactics.
The CNA claims CPMC is not hiring nurses with foreign graduate degrees or certifications. Details about this, like the kidney dialysis issue were entirely new to this reporter that day of the hearing and exact information was not clear.
As understood by this reporter up until now, the focus has been the "Master Plan" and the effort to upgrade, build and expand CPMC's presence and role in providing health care to the San Francisco area.
Why these issues were brought up is not clear. What do these two separate issues have to do with building a hospital?
The 555-bed Cathedral Hill facility if built would meet the new California State-mandated seismic and safety standards. St. Luke’s would be included in the upgrade plans as CPMC seeks to deliver $80 million annually in care to the poor and uninsured.
One of the most continuously disputed subjects about the Master Plan is the down-sizing of St. Luke's Hospital. When CPMC announced it's plans to change services and shut-down various units at St. Luke's, back in 2007 public outcry was huge.
A Blue Ribbon Committee was formed spear-headed by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and the SF Board of Supervisors, CPMC agreed to rebuild St. Luke’s by integrating the campus into CPMC’s City-wide Master Plan.
Yet, criticism of that process were voiced. Some who are skeptical of CPMC's plans suspect that the committee process was biased.
Subsequent advisory committees and community meetings surrounding St. Luke's sought to make CPMC re-think its plans. As a result this has made setting forth the Master Plan an arduous task for CPMC.
And for this reason some think the Blue Ribbon Committee along with the advisory committees and community meetings achieved a positive impact upon CPMC's plans.
Opponents to the Master Plan say the downsizing of the century old charity hospital will only cause it to fail. St. Luke's and SF General are the only hospitals in the Mission District area to serve a large portion of the City's population.
Currently, SF General Hospital has one of the leading emergency trauma centers and psychiatric clinics in the SF Bay Area and its outreach serves all of San Francisco as well as adjacent San Mateo County.
Founded and managed by the Episcopal Church of San Francisco, CPMC took over St. Luke's as operating costs spiraled, forcing the Episcopal Archdiocese to relinquish control. Estimates to rebuild St. Luke's are over $200 million.
The issue about the number of licensed hospital beds proposed for the yet-to-be-built St. Luke's has dragged on with no agreements in the negotiations between CPMC and the unions.
The hospital workers' unions and the California Nurses Association claim that CPMC wants to reduce the number of hospital beds at St. Luke's, while seeking to have the maximum of beds at the new Cathedral Hill complex.
McCormack has said repeatedly that the issue of hospital beds is exaggerated. St. Luke's with its outreach to the low income community of the Mission District and surrounding areas will have plenty of beds when it is rebuilt.
“Currently, St. Luke’s has 215 beds,” said McCormack. “But the average number actually used on an annual basis is about 55 beds for acute care,” he said. McCormack claims that figures are based upon a 10-year span of statistical data.
Speaking on behalf of the California Nurses Association, labor rep Nato Green, said that this is still an issue because the number of hospital beds is not clearly spelled out in the draft of the EIR.
What is confusing in this issue of hospital beds is the distinction. "licensed beds" and "acute care beds." Or as some times described as "skilled nursing beds." These terms get tossed around a lot. And, it is not clear as to which type of hospital bed is actually the most needed.
Neither side can explain why this single issue seems to be stalling the plans for both St. Luke's and the Cathedral Hill facility.
McCormack insists that the St. Luke's Hospital beds issue has been promised and this is simply a labor dispute issue because Cathedral Hill will be a non-union facility. But nurses and workers can form a union if they want, McCormack told this reporter.
Green noted that a broad coalition of local groups of at least two dozen or so opposes the Master Plan and that CPMC is not keeping true to its word. Like Kostianian, he feels CPMC is not to be trusted.
"The Chamber of Commerce, Teamsters, SEIU, Davies neighborhood groups, St. Anthony Foundation etc. They all are strong support of CPMC," said McCormack.
McCormack and officials at CPMC hope the SF Planning Commission will see the benefits and recognize the City's health care needs and look favorably upon the draft of this EIR for the "Master Plan."
Public comment will continue to be collected in the review process for at least a month. Meanwhile the Master Plan can not move further until full review process is completed.
To learn the status of the draft of the EIR for CPMC Master Plan as it unfolds with the SF Planning Commission, visit:
To learn more about the Plans for St. Luke’s Hospital visit:
And to review The California Nurses Association point of view on the plans visit:
More about this on going struggle can be followed in articles previously published in print and are posted on line at: and

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