| SFGH Breaks Ground for Rebuilding
By Jonathan Farrell Nov 13, 2009
A summer-like day with clear blue skies greeted hundreds of people as they gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 22 to begin the rebuilding of San Francisco General Hospital’s inpatient care facility at 1001 Potrero Ave.
Doctors, nurses, therapists, lab technicians, administrators and scores of hospital workers from all departments converged onto the Main Lawn in front of the hospital’s main entrance.
On the front lawn next to the speaking platform and loudspeakers, Ed Reiskin, director of SF Dept of Public Works with the dozens of construction workers had a large tractor along with shovels ready to dig into the ground.
Patients and staff in the old red-brick buildings overlooking the lawn area peered out the windows to view the ceremony. Those four majestic but aging brick buildings are a sharp contrast to the gray concrete edifice added to the SF General campus in 1972.
Since the 1870’s when the hospital was initially built, the hospital has been extensively rebuilt or significantly modernized four times during its century-old history. In 1915, all the buildings of that time were designed in a neo-Italian Renaissance style, with patterned red brick exteriors, terra-cotta and marble trim and ornamentation. These are the five-story tower-like structures that have remained to this day.
Yet, by 1987, many of the buildings erected between 1915 and 1928 had been demolished and replaced with more modern structures. Under the 1987 Institutional Master Plan for the site, SF General added three significant buildings. An AIDS research center (Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology in Building 3) was built atop the former Pathology Building. This has permitted SFGH to extend its nationally respected HIV work by building modern laboratories for basic biomedical research on the virus.
SF General was among the first in the nation to openly confront the AIDS crisis and “it continues to be at the cutting-edge of medical treatment,” said Judy Guggenhime, president of the SF General Hospital Foundation. She was among a list of distinguished guests asked to speak along with the Mayor and Dr. Katz.
“Many of the programs and approaches to treatment founded here have become models for research and treatment throughout the country,” said Guggenhime.
The work the hospital’s non-profit foundation carries out is to help in obtaining needed funding through donations and endowments. Since its founding in 1994, the SF General Hospital Foundation has raised more than $40 million.
In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake the State of California established stricter and more effective seismic safety building codes, especially for hospitals. This was set forth in the seismic safety law, SB 1953, passed in 1994. Even before the state’s mandate, SF General has been looking to the future striving to meet and if possible surpass state and federal standards.
Serving over 100,000 patients every year, SF General is San Francisco's only Psychiatric Emergency Room. It is the largest psychiatric inpatient care facility. With the ever increasing number of uninsured people seeking medical care this is why the rebuilding project is so crucial.
SF General’s out reach is also important to the local economy and maintains a reassuring presence in one of the City’s most densely populated neighborhoods.
Labor unions such as SEIU Local 1021 showed their support and solidarity by wearing bright yellow T-shirts.
The labor unions wanted to remind people that while the rebuild project is a step forward, recent “far-reaching cuts to vital services and jobs” by the City and Health Dept. of 25 percent in wages is a set back to ensuring quality care to all San Franciscans. With its collaboration with University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, SF General Hospital employs over 5,000 people.
Regardless of the various departments, divisions, fractions and political affiliations this was a day for celebrating. Mayor Newsom along with the Board of Supervisors and other City officials welcomed the diverse crowd and spoke glowingly of the significance of the groundbreaking.
With the passing of the Prop. A bond measure last year, San Francisco voters helped the dream of rebuilding become a reality. $887.4 million will go to rebuilding the 125 year old facility by 2015. “We put fashioned a bond with some in trepidation, said Newsom, asking for more money than ever before.”
Newsom mentioned in his address that over 83 percent of the votes went in favor of the Prop A bond measure. Newsom pointed out that this is important because in its outreach to thousands SF General Hospital provides the best care as the only level one trauma center for the entire City and adjacent San Mateo County area.
Newsom also described the work of SF General as “magical” because many of those served are not able to afford health insurance. SF General is literally a lifeline for the community.
It seems that among those most proud that day of the rebuild project finally getting underway was the director SF Dept. of Health, Dr. Mitch Katz. He, like the Mayor expressed his gratitude to the voters of San Francisco for passing Prop A. But Katz especially thanked all the people involved in making the rebuild project happen. He noted that it was not about Republicans or Democrats or any political platform or affiliations it was about the health care and well-being of everyone.
He also mentioned that such intense and extensive outreach is only possible when there is a dedication and commitment. Katz praised the “tremendous commitment” of all the City officials and departments such as the Board of Supervisors who understood without hesitation the importance of their support and cooperation in this endeavor. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi sent her well wishes in a letter read to the crowd.
Katz recalled his very first day at SF General working as a Medical intern back in the 1980’s and now over 25 years later is honored and humbled to witness the rebuilding of one of the most vital medical facilities to the City of San Francisco.
Katz also said that with such an extensive outreach, SF General is not the easiest place to be in. Yet he described SF General as “not a doctor-centered hospital but one where everyone on staff is a team who delivers the best care with the help of other hospitals like UCSF Medical Center.”
The new 448,000 square-foot building will be nine stories (seven stories above ground and two below) and house 284 inpatient beds, 32 more beds than the current hospital. The new building will feature a state-of-the-art environment including patient care areas that have been designed to reduce errors and infections and improve quality and nursing care.
Other speakers included Sue Carlisle, associate dean of UCSF and Sue Currin who serves as CEO for the hospital. “We provide 20 percent of the City’s inpatient care. The new hospital facility will allow us to do an even better job fulfilling our mission to provide high quality health care to all,” said Currin.
For information on the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center rebuild, visit: www.sfdph.org/dph/rebuildSFGH/
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