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CPMC CEO Bows to Grassroots Pressure, Announces Two Month Delay in St. Luke’s Patient Eviction

California Nurses Association Press Release, 9/6/17

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Family members speaking out at a press conference before the Health Commission hearing Tuesday

Family Members, Community Coalition Win Temporary Victory!

Sutter Health Postpones by Two Months Eviction of Patients from Skilled Nursing and Sub-Acute Care Units at CPMC - St. Luke's Hospital

Health Commission Deems Sutter’s Decision to Shut Unit Detrimental to Public Health in San Francisco

San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs & Justice (SF-H2J2), a coalition of over 50 organizations, won a temporary victory yesterday at the San Francisco Health Commission's Proposition Q hearing, where bowing to grassroots pressure, Sutter Health's California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) CEO Warren Browner announced that Sutter would be postponing the closure of the skilled nursing department and the sub-acute care unit at St. Luke's Hospital by two months, from Oct. 31 to Dec. 31.

At the hearing the Health Commission also passed a resolution stating that Sutter Health's proposed closure of the skilled nursing department and the sub-acute care housed within it at CPMC - St. Luke's Campus would have a detrimental impact on public health in San Francisco.  If Sutter closes this unit there will be no sub-acute units left in San Francisco, a city with an increasing older population, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health

"Sutter isn't going to let up by any means the pressure they are putting on the families. They announced this delay to look like they are working with the families while they are actually cutting back on staffing, which jeopardizes patient safety," said Raquel Rivera, Co-coordinator of the St. Luke's Sub-acute Family Council. "They're using this time to plan out additional tactics to evict the patients and of course we're going to use this time as well to fight the closure!"

"There's no reason for Sutter to subject our patients to this level of stress and trauma, which certainly will not be abated by a two month delay. We do our best at the bedside to soothe our patients, but nothing will fix this unless the unit stays open," said Eric Barreras, who has been a registered nurse in the St. Luke's sub-acute unit for 17 years. 

"In San Francisco we have gotten to the point where a hospital corporation is determining, based on the bottom line, who shall live-because patients in this situation don't live very long when they are removed from their families," said SF-H2J2 Coalition member, Dr. Teresa Palmer. "The announced delay buys us more time to fashion a legal or legislative solution to this problem, a solution that will actually serve all San Franciscans as we age."

"These patients were once our engineers, architects, teachers, nurses, church choir leaders, and will always and forever be daughters, sons, fathers and mothers in spite of their current medical state," said Malou Dizon, RN, St. Luke's sub-acute unit. "They did their share of being productive members of the society and now it's our turn to speak for them and give them the care they truly deserve."

"We believe it is unconscionable to move the people who are in the sub-acute unit out of county. This is non-negotiable," said legislative aide, Carolyn Goosen on behalf of Supervisor Hillary Ronen at the Health Commission hearing. " We must find an in-county solution that allows loved ones to help support and visit their family members, a solution that considers the best interests of our severely ill SF residents and their family members."

"This is a first step but we will not stop until we have achieved justice for these patients and their families," said Jane Sandoval, an RN at St. Luke's and boardmember of the California Nurses Association. "We are confident that the political will exists in San Francisco to protect the rights of these vulnerable patients, to prevent Sutter from forcefully evicting them from their home in San Francisco. The ability of our community members to live and receive healthcare in San Francisco is not a "privilege," as has been suggested by Sutter, it's a right and a matter of human dignity."

Sutter's CPMC announced in June that it would close the skilled nursing and sub-acute beds, at the St. Luke's campus on October 31.  Sutter has not explained why it's now trying to evict the patients currently occupying those beds, nor why it intends to permanently reject admission of skilled nursing and sub-acute patients in the future after completion of the new St. Luke's hospital.

Patients cared for in the sub-acute unit of the skilled nursing facility are among the hospitals most helpless and vulnerable. Many are dependent on ventilators, require tracheotomy care and feeding tubes and are held in total body slings for short periods while their beds are changed. Over the years nurses have observed that when these patients are moved from the facility, they often suffer transfer trauma, causing their health to decline. In some cases, the move is so traumatic it leads to their death. 

At a hearing of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee on July 26, family members reported that they received little or no warning about the premature closure. They testified on the importance of their loved ones remaining at St. Luke's so that they can continue to give them the support that is vital to their wellbeing. Many of the patients' families have very limited resources and are elderly or in poor health themselves which makes traveling to out-of-town facilities extremely difficult.

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