CPMC may have to spend millions to be a good neighbor

June 8, 2011 6:48:06 PM PDT
A new hospital set to sprawl across two blocks in the heart of San Francisco is making waves in the surrounding community. California Pacific Medical Center may have to spend millions or even billions of dollars just to be a good neighbor.

Demonstrators at City Hall labeled California Pacific Medical Center as the enemy. They came to support Mayor Ed Lee's request that the hospital step up its charity care for the poor, before the city lets it build a new campus at the site of the empty Cathedral Hill Hotel on Van Ness Avenue.

"It's right next to the Tenderloin and that's the hardest part of our city. We have so many poor and indigent individuals living in SROs and I think that they would want to contribute as a good neighbor," said Lee.

"Yes, CPMC, we would like for you to pay your fair share in running your business here in San Francisco," said one speaker at the event.

A spokesman says California Pacific already does that.

"We spent $15 million last year on charity care, more than any other hospital in San Francisco. Our charity care policies are more generous than any other hospital in San Francisco. So we're doing our share," said hospital spokesman Kevin McCormack.

However, if they want to meet the state's deadline for building a new earthquake-safe hospital, they have to convince the city and that's really the bigger issue. Hospitals all over California are being forced to rebuild huge facilities like this one, in order to meet new tougher seismic safety standards. Now, the standards are set by the state, but its local governments that hold the keys to the building permits. And already, we've seen three other Bay Area hospitals agree to cough up tens of millions of dollars in community improvement money before local officials would hand over that signed piece of paper. Depending on how you do the math, California Pacific claims it's being asked to spend a lot more than that.

"It's something we can't afford, it's something no hospital could afford," said McCormack.

The hospital claims it would have to spend $2 billion, spread out over 50 years, to give the level of charity care the city is asking for. They're getting no sympathy from protesters.

"I say $2 billion is a drop in the bucket for what CPMC should be paying back into this community," said Sal Roselli, a health care union leader.

Lee says he wants to compromise. It'll have to happen by August to keep the project on schedule.


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