MOUNT ZION: Glimmer of Hope?
At a three hour public hearing yesterday, word "circulated" about a possible "bailout package" being drafted by San Francisco's top political leaders in an attempt to save Mount Zion hospital. The proposal involves using federal and state funds to keep the "popular" medical center -- which serves a large population of indigent and uninsured patients -- operating. The "key to the package," however, is securing enough city funds to cover costs until the the other money is secured during the next six months. State officials at all levels, including rival mayoral candidates Mayor Willie Brown and Tom Ammiano, do not believe that "the door is closed" on the Mount Zion issue, but administrators at the University of California at San Francisco are less than enthusiastic about the bailout proposal. According to UC-San Francisco's acting Vice Chancellor for medical affairs Dr. Lee Goldman, Mount Zion continues to lose $4 million each month and the costs of reversing its closure are higher now than they were this summer. Goldman said, "Every day that goes by, the costs go up and up. The rationale for a major infusion becomes less sensible," adding, "If the city believes that more funds are available, I'd personally rather see that money go to shore up programs at San Francisco General Hospital." But Dr. John Brown, the city's emergency services director, believes closing Mount Zion -- specifically its emergency room -- would do more harm than good, especially as winter approaches, when the demand for emergency beds reaches its peak. Brown also contends that the Mount Zion closure will worsen the season shortage of critical care beds in San Francisco hospitals, have a negative impact on ambulance diversion and reduce city's overall capacity to provide long-term convalescent care by 2%. The city Health Commission will convene Dec. 7 to issue a finding regarding the impact of Mount Zion's closing on the city's public health status (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.