After Mayor Lee recently announced that CPMC must enter into a truly ironclad agreement to operate St. Luke’s hospital for at least twenty years – which was the intent of the party’s original deal – CPMC almost immediately responded on the morning of July 9 that it would make no such commitment. At a Board of Supervisors Committee meeting that afternoon Supervisor Jane Kim made it clear that there would be no new CPMC hospital on Cathedral Hill absent such a commitment, and even CPMC’s closest allies on the Board likely agree. It’s now time to look for a backup plan that keeps St. Luke’s a thriving hospital while addressing the city’s need for new hospital beds. Dignity Health has been active in seeking new markets, and could be part of a coalition of medical providers that would turn St. Luke’s into the hospital many hoped the new CPMC would become.
Despite a widespread view that CPMC’s new hospital would be so profitable that parent Sutter Health would not walk away at any cost, the facts are turning out otherwise. Sutter’s refusal to simply guarantee that it would keep St. Luke’s open for twenty years – which was part of their prior “ironclad” agreement – is a deal-killer.
To put it in the terms of today’s All-Star game, Mayor Lee threw Sutter a slow pitch down the middle of the plate and all the hospital giant had to do to hit a homerun was to again agree to contract terms it essentially had already agreed to – and yet Sutter whiffed on the pitch and struck out.
It’s now time for San Francisco to look for a new team, one that agrees to play by the city’s rules.
Many hospitals would be interested in working a deal out with the city that would rebuild and expand St. Luke’s. Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West) is an obvious choice, and although Chinese Hospital is still raising money to rebuild its facility, given the large Asian-American population in the southeast part of the city it also might be interested in becoming part of a multi-hospital provider network at St. Luke’s.
It’s very unfortunate that CPMC has misread our mayor’s resolve and the Board of Supervisor’s commitment to maintain St. Luke’s hospital for the longterm. But the city does have other options, and it is now time to explore them.