SF GENERAL HOSPITAL: Deteriorating Facility Hard Hit by Budget Cuts
"In an unusual display of discontent, a parade of medical workers and department chiefs" yesterday told city health commissioners that San Francisco General Hospital is "falling apart from lack of basic maintenance." Describing "windows that will not close," mice-ridden clinics and "bathrooms overflowing in filth," the workers said the conditions "were sapping morale and even endangering patients." Patients "feel like they are coming to the bus station, not a hospital," said Psychiatric Department Chair Dr. Robert Okin, who "said delayed improvements to the hospital infrastructure as a way to save money were 'less dramatic, but equally corrosive' as program cuts." Hospital workers also warned that the facility's maintenance crew is so short-staffed that doctors must perform basic housekeeping chores. Further, doctors "complained bitterly of the chaos" resulting from closing one of the hospital's two pharmacies, a cost-cutting measure intended to save $1 million. Since the pharmacy closed, doctors said patients are forced to stand in lines for up to four hours on two different days to order and pick up prescriptions.
When It Rains, It Pours
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that despite Mayor Willie Brown's (D) recent promise to shift $25 million in city funds to the public hospital, "staffers are still bracing for belt-tightening measures that typically fall on maintenance and capital-improvement plans." Public Health Director Dr. Mitchell Katz acknowledged that from "a physical standpoint, we are falling behind," but noted that faltering conditions were due to "conscious decisions in the past to stint on the facilities in order to save the programs they house." Katz said next year's budget includes a $23 million increase for SF General and that his department is asking the city for $5.8 million for the Laguna Honda nursing home and $19.6 million for other health department programs. Lee Ann Monfredini, president of the city's Health Commission, said the $25 million bailout is not enough to solve the problem. "In six months, we'll be in the same situation, or worse," she said, and "I can guarantee you that we won't be bailed out again" (Russell, 3/24).