Rebuilding CPMC will help save St. Luke’s 

At St. Luke’s Hospital, our mission statement has held true since our founding in 1871, which is:

“St. Luke’s doors are open wide for the reception of all colors, nationalities and creeds. Its benefits, refused to none, will be limited only by its means.”

For as long as any of us can remember, St. Luke’s has struggled with the means to stay afloat. We were saved in 2001 by our affiliation with Sutter Health which then made us part of the California Pacific Medical Center. In 2006, when CPMC proposed closing St. Luke’s and turning it into an outpatient center, the St. Luke’s medical staff stood firm and fought for its vision to have a sustainable medical campus, offering services that are relevant to the Mission district community.

The medical staff was intimately involved in the planning of the rebuilding of the hospital. We participated in the blue-ribbon panel on St. Luke’s, which included representatives from city government, labor unions, academia and a broad cross-section of community groups. The panel understood and acknowledged that the plan to rebuild CPMC was intrinsic to the survival of St. Luke’s — and ironically vice-versa.

We made a series of specific recommendations on the services that should be provided to meet the real health needs of the community. Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom said, “The recommendations produced by the St. Luke’s blue-ribbon panel reflect not only the needs and considerations of the communities and neighborhoods served by St. Luke’s Hospital for over 137 years, they also reflect the expertise and experience of local and national health experts and community leaders.” The result of all this work is that CPMC became St. Luke’s strongest ally.

So it is infuriating that after years of intensive and thoughtful planning, city government has decided to throw a wrench into things by making unreasonable demands on the rebuilding CPMC program.

The City needs to recognize that CPMC has greatly expanded its mission and community benefit by integrating St. Luke’s into CPMC’s citywide system of care. CPMC has committed to building a brand new, modern, seismically safe hospital in the Mission district (where the only other hospital is San Francisco General) at a cost of more than $250 million. This is a community benefit in and of itself, and will be done using money only from Sutter Health and philanthropy, not from The City.

We are on the hospital front lines every single day. We have some of the best doctors in San Francisco who not only care for their own patients, but because of their dedication to our mission serve as a safety net, frequently without compensation, for San Francisco General patients who frequently are diverted here. We know how to take care of the sickest patients, often with multi-system failure, and we are proud to deliver.

It is easy to take pot shots and make unreasonable demands of CPMC and Sutter Health. It is not so easy to recognize the political forces at work behind the scenes. St. Luke’s is again in jeopardy, this time because of the very people who said they needed us the most. I urge city leaders to put politics aside, approve the plan, and let us do what we have been doing since 1871: provide great health care for everyone who walks through our doors.

Dr. Ed Kersh is a cardiologist who serves as St. Luke’s Hospital chief of staff and head of the St. Luke’s Medical Executive Committee.

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Dr. Ed Kersh

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