Nursing unit survives CPMC chopping block

Bowing to pressure from city officials and family members, California Pacific Medical Center Monday announced it will continue to care for patients in its sub-acute nursing unit even after the closure of St. Luke’s Hospital where it is based.

Monday’s announcement marks a sharp turnaround for hospital officials, who until now had said they had no space for the sub-acute unit, which provides long-term care for medically fragile patients who require around-the-clock nursing but are well enough to be discharged from the hospital.

The hospital’s plans to shut down 39 skilled nursing beds and 40 sub-acute beds at St. Luke’s by the end of October produced an outcry when they were announced in June because it would have left the city with no sub-acute beds.

Family members of patients testified at a hearing sponsored by Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Hillary Ronen in July that they were struggling to find beds in the Bay Area, and some feared patients could be moved as far as Sacramento or Southern California.

CPMC CEO Warren Browner said:

“After several meetings with our patients and their families, and after consulting with city leaders, we have decided to provide continued care to these patients within the CPMC organization here in San Francisco. … We hope that this solution will give families peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones will continue to receive the highest quality care here in the city, where they can easily visit and support them.”

The unit closure was part of a planned transition into a new 120-bed, 215,000 square foot campus for St. Luke’s expected to open in 2018, and had been approved by state health officials. CPMC is also building a new 274-bed facility at Van Ness Avenue and Geary.

Safai said:

“I think CPMC came to the right decision to accommodate these patients and their needs. … It’s hard to argue that when you’re building 400 new beds of hospital space that you can’t shift things around.”

The announcement does not solve The City’s larger problems, however, as it only covers existing patients and does not provide any new sub-acute beds.

“There is still a gaping hole in our healthcare system in San Francisco and that’s the complete lack of sub-acute care beds into the future,” as well as a shortage in the number of skilled nursing beds, Ronen said.

A city task force released a report in February of 2016 that found the aging population, the high cost of doing business in the city and low reimbursement rates, especially for Medi-Cal, have created a shortage of sub-acute and skilled nursing beds.

The report made recommendations including exploring new funding, incentives and land use policies for care providers, looking at public-private partnerships and working to transfer some patients to more community-based care in their homes.

A hearing scheduled for the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to examine the proposed closure will look at these wider issues, Ronen said.