St. Luke’s won’t evict sub-acute patients ….

... but CPMC, which owns the Mission hospital, won't promise to preserve the critical-care beds after the current patients die

The Board of Supes celebrated a significant victory today when California Pacific Medical Center’s director, Dr. David Browner, announced that St. Luke’s hospital will not send 24 sub-acute care patients out of town when it shuts down its 24-hour critical nursing center.

It was a huge victory for community activists, who have challenged the big hospital chain’s decision to close the center, which provides comprehensive care for adults with high needs, such as ventilators. 

Existing patients will be protected — but what are the plans for the future?

Sups. Hillary Ronen and Ahsha Safai negotiated the deal with CPMC as the board was preparing to hold a hearing on the lack of sub-acute skilled nursing care in a city where the population is aging.

Both of them noted that it’s rare for a giant corporate entity (and CPMC, while technically nonprofit, is a giant corporate entity) to bow to community pressure and reverse what was a decision set in stone just a few weeks ago.

But it became clear in the hearing that Browner had made only a short-term promise: The existing patients at the facility will remain at some CPMC campus within San Francisco until they die or are discharged. He made no commitment to accept new patients or to keep any sub-acute beds available in any CPMC facilities.

That’s a huge deal: Without the St. Luke’s facility, San Francisco would be the only county in the Bay Area without sub-acute beds. Browner talked about the need for a “regional solution,” but when Safai asked him specifically if he would agree to keep sub-acute beds as part of CPMC’s future, he stood silent, then stepped away.

For the record, CPMC is owned by Sutter, a multibillion-a-year nonprofit with $4 billion in assets, according to federal filings.

From Browner’s comments, it appeared that CPMC was looking for ways to get public money to underwrite sub-acute beds. 

Barbara Garcia, the director of public health, acknowledged that the city is facing a crisis: there are nowhere near as many sub-acute facilities as San Francisco needs.

That’s just part of the looming crisis in health care for an aging population in the city and the region, and Carolyn Goossen, an aide to Ronen, told me that the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, a rare panel under President London Breed’s appointments that has a progressive majority, will take up the issue in November.

Garcia talked a lot of about existing task forces, and discussion with the hospital associations, but the reality is that skilled nursing facilities are expensive and the likes of Sutter — which focuses on the bottom line, not public service — don’t want to provide them.

But we have to get on this. None of us are getting any younger.