| Neighborhood Critiques CPMC Plan for St. Luke’s
By Jonathan Farrell Feb 26, 2009
It was standing room only at a community forum on Jan. 26 as representatives for California Pacific Medical Center unveiled the preliminary outline plans for the renovation and rebuilding of St. Luke’s Hospital.
Protests have influenced CPMC's plan
for St. Luke's Hospital.
Photo: Jane Martin
The 130-year-old institution has gone through a series of renovations and retrofits over the years, consisting of constructions in 1957 and 1970.
But more renovations and rebuilding are required to meet with current State and Federal regulations as California Pacific Medical Center incorporates St. Luke’s into its Master Plan for the future. Over $2 billion in private investment capital funding is being sought to renovate and rebuild St. Luke’s.
As reported in The Mission Dispatch as far back as Dec. of 2007, the struggle to keep St. Luke’s in operation has been a major concern to the Mission District and surrounding areas. When news of CPMC’s proposal to close St. Luke’s circulated to the community, activists, physicians and city officials formed a Blue Ribbon Panel to formulate a way to save the hospital.
Through the leadership of SF Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier the Panel worked through a series of meetings to figure out the best strategy to keep the hospital. At the end of its lengthy process this past summer, the Blue Ribbon Panel and subsequent task force groups and committees presented CPMC’s Board of Directors with formal recommendations. The board officially adopted the recommendations to incorporate them into their vision plans.
The main purpose of the community forum at St. Luke’s on Jan. 26 was to present to the public the plans CPMC has made from those Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations.
Most of the struggle has hinged upon issues of a large corporate entity such as CPMC or Sutter Health, Inc.; taking over what had once been a privately owned and operated hospital. Founded by the Episcopal Archdiocese of San Francisco to serve the needy, St. Luke’s on Cesar Chavez and Valencia has been an anchor of health services to the Mission District and surrounding areas for decades.
“My connection to this hospital goes way back, many years,” said Florine Konkle. As someone who grew up in the Mission District, she and her entire family over the span of several generations have sought medical care at St. Luke’s.
Konkle worries like so many others that if St. Luke’s is closed it will be disastrous to the Mission District. She was among the first to arrive that evening in the Griffin Room for the community forum. Soon the room was overflowing.
The initial mood was casual as food and refreshments were served. Yet as the plans were explained neighborhood residents became critical of the presentation made by Jeffery Nelson Director of Enterprises for project planning at CPMC. “Hospitals are amazing creatures, they are driven by the activities inside them,” said Nelson. He noted that the renovation and rebuilding of St. Luke’s is a major undertaking that will impact the neighborhood.
Nelson’s power-point presentation projected upon a large screen detailed a series of plans that focused mostly on a Master Plan. Long-rang goals are being set by CPMC that includes building a new hospital on the site of the Cathedral Hill Hotel formerly called the Jack Tarr Hotel.
Located on Van Ness Ave at Geary the site is a very busy and congested intersection of the city. Critics of the Master Plan question the feasibility of the location as it would make for an even more congested situation.
Regardless CPMC wants to move forward making the Cathedral Hill location its premiere medical facility for the city. Serving the city with in-depth state-of-the-art medical care CPMC sees itself as an integral part of the health care and emergency services safety net for all of San Francisco. The vision is to set the building atop of Cathedral Hill as “a crown jewel” as it were, connecting the four other hospital campus locations together.
“Seismic upgrading and retrofitting is driving much of the consolidation efforts in the CPMC system, said Nelson.” In the view of the Master Plan, St. Luke’s is seen only as a campus of CPMC, just a part of that plan.
Much of the conflict between the community and the larger vision of CPMC is that St. Luke’s is no longer a self-governing institution as it had been in the past.
Rising costs, overwhelming health care needs and increasing technological advancements in medicine made it difficult for the Episcopalian Archdiocese of San Francisco to hold on to what it had founded to serve the needs of the area.
The Episcopalian Church and its link to the hospital are now just a part of history. The future for St. Luke’s is in the hands of CPMC. Residents and community leaders voiced their concerns of this Master Plan and worry that St. Luke’s may not survive.
“The site plan for this hospital is basically a Wal-Mart,” said Gillian Gillett of the San Jose Ave and Guerrero Street Coalition.
Gillett continued in detail. She stood up to speak so all would hear. “All the parking is at grade and "out front", rather than below-grade. The sides of the proposed buildings are long, blank walls without active doors - rather like the back of the Mission Safeway, or the sides of the old Sears Building - which are uninviting to pedestrians to walk by and are dangerous at night.”
Other community organizers agreed. “We are not too happy with this plan. What is needed is a task force consisting of members from all the neighborhoods to review in consensus your Master Plan,” said Marlene Morgan.
Karen Garrison who served on one of the task forces for the Blue Ribbon Panel pointed out that as a center for acute care, the need for available hospital beds to meet current emergency standards is critical.
If St. Luke’s were to shut down and be moved elsewhere how would people be attended to in the midst of an emergency?
Speaking on behalf of physicians at the forum Karen Makelyn a pediatrician at St. Luke’s said that 70 percent of the patients served at St. Luke’s are on MediCal. “Over 5,000 children are seen at the Emergency Room annually, with over 28,000 adults receiving care at the ER per year.” “Keeping St. Luke’s open during construction is important because getting doctors and staff to return once building was complete would be very difficult,” added Makelyn.
“If this plan is executed, for another 60 years or more there will continue to be no reason for anyone to walk along the 3500 block of Cesar Chavez - four blocks from regional transportation - BART,” said Gillett.
“St. Luke's Hospital is the hospital best-served by transit in the City. It is blocks from the BART station, allowing patients and employees to reach it from anywhere in the Bay Area,” Gillett noted.
Gillett out also pointed out that what she referred to as “the "ass" of the hospital, the trash and loading docks are positioned immediately adjacent to dozens of residences without any back yards.
Homeowners present at the forum voiced their concern that the potential construction plans would increase the congestion of an already densely populated area.
Former Health Commissioner Roma Guy who served on the Blue Ribbon Panel on behalf of Mission District Supervisor Tom Ammiano said, “the issues about emergency services and the availability of beds was among the hardest issues to address.”
“The rebuilding of St. Luke's, if planned properly, can knit together Noe, Bernal and Mission, in a way that invites walking, shopping and the use of public transit,” said Gillett.
Recalling urban planning projects in the past, Gillett said, “the rebuilding of St. Luke's is an opportunity to repair the extensive damage done to fine-grained neighborhood character by the abandoned freeway plans.”
Among those who advocate to keep St. Luke’s open, “it is better to try to work with this plan,” said neighborhood coordinator Fran Taylor.
As Guy pointed out “when we started this process CPMC wanted to close down St. Luke’s.” “Now after the efforts of the Blue Ribbon Panel,” said Guy, “St. Luke’s will be saved.”
Jack Bailey, Vice President of the Board of Directors for CPMC was present at the forum. "We “re in discussion for viable options. We are committed to a solution,” added Bailey.
“It will not be easy but let’s continue to help CPMC make the many multi-level decisions needed to save the hospital,” said Guy.
For more information about the saving of St. Luke’s and CPMC’s Master Plan for the future visit: http://www.stlukes-sf.org/
Or contact: Gus Hernandez at (415) 271-5961 email: email@example.com.
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