Multi-county task force fights to keep Seton Hospital open in Daly City

DALY CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- The fight is on to keep Seton Medical Center in Daly City open, led by a newly created multi-county task force.

At a Friday morning press conference, San Mateo County supervisor David Canepa said San Mateo and San Francisco counties face "a health crisis" if Seton closes. The hospital serves patients from both San Mateo and San Francisco Counties.

"It is sad that throughout the United States, hospital bankruptcies are plaguing poor communities. It's an absolute shame for what happens to poor people," says Canepa.

The hospital's owner, Verity Health System, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August. That has the task force concerned that the hospital will close, which Canepa says that could happen as early as March of 2019 -- a claim Verity Health refutes.

"You have to understand, if Seton closes, our next emergency room is potentially in Milbrea or San Francisco," explains Canepa.

About 80 percent of Seton's patients are low-income families and seniors. And the hospital services about 28,000 emergency room patients a year. It is also Daly City's largest employer.

"We are taking a proactive approach with supervisors and state officials to really ensure that this institution remains," says Juslyn Manalo, Daly City mayor. She says the city passed a resolution keeping the area zone for a hospital.

For its part, Verity Health says the bankruptcy filing will go a long way to help preserve the hospitals mission.

In a statement to ABC7 News, they wrote:

"After a diligent process of assessing all possible options alongside our financial and legal advisers, Verity Health has made the best strategic decision for all of our patients, employees and other stakeholders which is to file for Chapter 11 protection to resolve decades of neglect and burdensome debt, with the ultimate goal of putting our hospitals on better financial footing in order maintain our shared mission.
We are now in the midst of an orderly sale process which is intended to preserve the legacy of these important historic institutions, including Seton. At this stage, we have no official buyer to announce for Seton as it is still very early in the process but our every hope is that prospective buyers maintain our core objectives: quality healthcare and employment for all. We remain focused on finding such a buyer for Seton and throughout this time, the hospital remains open and we continue our important work of serving patients and the community."

Verity also points to, "our operating reality, which includes a legacy burden of more than a billion dollars of bond debt and unfunded liabilities."

The task force will meet bi-weekly to work on the major issues facing the hospital, such as the multi-million dollar seismic retrofit issues, which Canepa says can be a big obstacle for potential buyers.
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