CPMC hospitals may miss earthquake safety deadline due to length of talks 

click to enlarge CPMC officials say they will miss a state earthquake-retrofit deadline due to slow talks with The City. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • CPMC officials say they will miss a state earthquake-retrofit deadline due to slow talks with The City.

Prolonged negotiations between The City and the California Pacific Medical Center over a massive new 555-bed facility on Cathedral Hill will likely cause the hospital group to miss a state deadline to meet earthquake safety standards.

Plans for the new hospital have been in the works for the better part of a decade. CPMC wants to move most of the overnight beds from its existing San Francisco hospitals to the new facility, so it can comply with the state’s seismic safety mandate without having to retrofit two of its major campuses. Overnight patients will technically not be permitted in CPMC’s California and Pacific campuses past Jan. 1, 2015.

“Realistically, it’s a stretch,” said Kevin McCormack, a CPMC spokesman. “We’re always optimistic, but in talking to our design team, it will take four years. … We can’t start building until we get a development agreement with The City.”

Negotiations with The City have bogged down over a variety of factors, including the amount of charity care CPMC is willing to provide, the hospital chain’s contributions to affordable housing funds and public transit, and a nursing union’s fears over its ability to organize at the new facility.

Critics of the hospital’s plans also worry the potential transfer of specialized services from St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission district to other hospitals could leave that neighborhood underserved and result in an increased burden on Chinese Hospital and San Francisco General Hospital.

Last summer, CPMC said it would build health clinics in the Mission district and the Tenderloin neighborhood, and commit to providing the same amount of charity care it already offers voluntarily. But that wasn’t enough for a consortium of community groups calling out for more. The groups contend Sutter Health, the parent company of CPMC, provides fewer benefits than any other Bay Area hospital consortium of its size, although McCormack disputes how the figures were compiled.

Ken Rich, a senior planner negotiating for the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said the deal is moving forward, although he declined to discuss details with talks still under way.

“We’re still talking and we believe we will get to an agreement,” Rich said, also declining to set a timeline for when to expect a resolution.

Both parties have said in the past a deal is nigh, although that has generally been followed by months of silence on the matter.

“We’re moving it forward as quickly as we can,” Rich said.

Michael Lighty, the director of public policy for the California Nurses Association, surmised the deal is only being held up by CPMC’s unwillingness to do what’s best for The City.

“If they’re concerned about the seismic deadline, it’s wholly within their power to come up with a proposal that meets the needs of San Franciscans,” Lighty said.


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