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Hospital Building Battle Moves to SF City Hall

California Pacific Medical Center says it cannot afford to meet protesters' demands

The ongoing battle between California Pacific Medical Center and city leaders and union and community groups over its plans to build a new hospital intensified this week, when the health care provider said it could not afford to meet the city's conditions for developing a site on Cathedral Hill.

Community groups fired back on Wednesday, saying CPMC should do even more for the city's residents.

At a rally on the steps of City Hall, Tenderloin residents, union nurses and representatives from a bevy of community groups chanted, “CPMC. You ain’t got no alibi. You’re greedy. You’re greedy,” while holding signs reading “Stop Corporate Greed.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi rallied the crowd from the podium, shouting “No blank check to CPMC. We must stand our ground!” Supervisors Eric Mar, Jane Kim and David Campos also spoke at the rally.

Mayor Ed Lee is in the midst of negotiating a development agreement with the hospital over its multi-billion-dollar plan to rebuild its facilities in San Francisco, including a 555-bed hospital on Cathedral Hill.

On May 16, the Mayor requested $108 million of community improvements, including more services for the poor and transit subsidies. On Monday, CPMC countered that those requests would actually cost $1.7 billion over the long-term. “It would be an understatement to say that we can’t afford those numbers. Nobody could,” Dr. Warren Browner, CEO of CPMC said in a statement.

But the community and labor groups rallying at City Hall on Wednesday said that those requests do not go far enough.

“We’re calling for CPMC to negotiate a community benefits agreement with community stakeholders in addition to the development agreement they’re negotiating with the City,” said Gordon Mar, coordinator of Jobs with Justice.

Rally organizers are especially concerned about the future of St. Luke’s hospital in the Mission District, which serves mostly immigrants, poor and the elderly. As the Bay Citizen reported, the hospital's facilities are outdated. It lacks air conditioning and currently serves far fewer patients than its license allows. CPMC plans to tear down it down and rebuild a smaller 80-bed hospital in its place, while consolidating specialty care at its new Cathedral Hill hospital.

“They are just chasing down the patients with good health insurance and abandoning low and moderate income families, which will push them to the city public health system, particularly San Francisco General Hospital, which is already overloaded,” said Mar. “We’re asking for St. Luke’s to be rebuilt as a full-service hospital serving the underserved communities in Southeast San Francisco.”

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