San Francisco Chronicle Profiles Potrero Hill Health Center
The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday profiled the Potrero Hill Health Center, a 25-year-old community clinic that has "survived the murder of its first medical director," the financial perils of managed care and several attempts to close it. The clinic, one of nine such federally funded facilities in San Francisco and 1,000 nationwide, employs a staff of six full- or part-time doctors, five nurses, a nurse practioner, three dentists and a "variety of social workers, technicians and clerks." The clinic opened its doors on Jan. 17, 1976, after a group of Potrero Hill residents campaigned for their own health facility. Dr. Robert Ross served as Potrero Hill's first director after coming from a program at San Francisco General Hospital -- located just down the hill from the clinic -- that "attracts bright young doctors committed to public health from around the country." Ross was murdered in 1983 by a patient at the clinic and was succeeded by Michael Drennan, who carried on the clinic's mission of providing care for 4,000 local residents, "most of them uninsured or on Medi-Cal or Medicare." During the Reagan administration, federal funding for community clinics was "slashed," leading to the elimination of several positions at the clinics. In 1989, the city's health director proposed closing Potrero Hill -- a frequent occurrence over the past 25 years given the clinic's proximity to San Francisco General and its "low productivity rate." That plan was opposed by Potrero Hill residents and ultimately stopped by Mayor Art Agnos, who in 1973 had been shot after leaving a planning meeting for the clinic. In the spring of 2000, the city Health Commission "overruled" a proposal by Health Director Mitchell Katz to close the clinic after Drennan gained the support of "prestigious doctors" such as William Schecter, the chief of surgery at San Francisco General. "It doesn't make any sense to take something functioning superbly and cut it," he said. The Chronicle reports that the repeated attempts to close the clinic have failed because it "arouses a fierce protectiveness in the people who use it and have precious little else they can count on" (Weiss, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).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.