City Hospital needs Prop A to pass or faces closure
The fate of San Francisco General Hospital — The City’s only trauma center designated to provide comprehensive care to injured patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and arguably the most important medical facility — will be left in the hands of San Francisco voters this fall.
If voters do not pass Proposition A, the $887.4 million general-obligation bond to rebuild the hospital to California’s seismic standards, then SF General faces the loss of its operating license and closure.
The new and rebuilt hospital under Prop A would also feature 32 additional beds, increased space for emergency patients and an improved nurses’ station.
Proposition A enjoys widespread support from city and state politicians, including Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
Many health organizations are also standing behind the bond, including Chinese Hospital of San Francisco, NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, North East Medical Services and Chinese Community Health Plan. The Republican, Democratic and Green Parties are all backing the proposition.
“We’re rebuilding because we have to,” said Gene O’Connell, CEO of SF General Hospital. “The law says that we must have a plan to rebuild because they won’t be giving licenses after 2013.”
According to a state law passed in 1994, all acute-care hospitals must be seismically safe by 2013. Hospitals without plans to upgrade must close by the end of that year. The City has already spent $25 million studying how to replace the SF General’s current buildings, which were constructed in 1976.
A reflection of the community it serves, SF General has a large impact on Asian Pacific Islanders, who comprise approximately 20 percent of the 1,200 patients treated there daily.
“One out of five patients that come here are Asian,” O’Connell said. “Certainly, we also have distinct programs that are targeted to the Asian community. Asian Prenatal Advocates are here. We also have an Asian-focused psychiatric unit — 7A — where they speak 11 different Asian dialects.”
Additionally, almost 40 percent of the hospital’s employees are Asian.
“Not only do we provide care but we also provide jobs to the Asian American community,” O’Connell said.
“SF General is important not only to Asian Americans, but to The City in general,” said John Lee of the Chinese Real Estate Association of America (and an AsianWeek columnist). “We need that hospital to be safe and sound. The consensus is that it [Prop A] needs to get done, otherwise they close.”
The size of the bond under Prop A is unprecedented, and the immense cost has drawn a number of detractors.
Critics point out that the $299 million bond to rebuild Laguna Honda that came before voters in 1999 did not match the actual costs, which are predicted to be more than twice that amount when construction finishes next year. The projected amount of new beds for the revised hospital was also much less than the actual amount.
SF General officials hope that the $25 million in research — which included site and fiscal feasibility studies, hiring contractors, design work and environmental impact and geo-technical reviews — and two years of planning will prevent such mistakes from occurring.
“We’ve learned from that experience,” O’Connell said. “We wanted to do all the work up front before it went to the voters.”
O’Connell stressed that time — and money — was of the essence. “I’ve been told the cost will increase 40 to 60 million dollars a year every year we wait,” O’Connell said. “Every year we wait is going to cost the taxpayers more money.”