Sutter, St. Luke’s Merger Could ‘Weaken’ Charity Care, Commission Says
The San Francisco Health Commission yesterday warned that an affiliation between Sutter Health and St. Luke's Hospital could "weaken" the hospital's "longtime commitment to charity care," the San Jose Mercury News reports. St. Luke's, San Francisco's "last independent, full-service hospital," hopes that a merger with Sutter will relieve the facility's financial problems. Without the merger, St. Luke's would "almost certainly" be forced to close, hospital officials said (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 2/7). After three hours of testimony from city residents and hospital workers, who argued both for and against the merger, the commission voted to seek assurances from Sutter that "services to the poor would continue at St. Luke's" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7). The commissioners said that Sutter "failed to guarantee" the same level of charity care if the merger is completed (San Jose Mercury News, 2/7). However, officials from Sutter and St. Luke's said that under the affiliation, they will maintain "historic" levels of charity care and that services should expand "with an infusion of new patients and cash" (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 2/6). Currently, St. Luke's spends about $6 million a year on charity care. However, city Health Director Mitchell Katz said, "Sutter does not have a record of providing charity. It has a record of firing people and not keeping their promises." The commission's resolution is not binding, but it "could send a strong message to [St. Luke's] and Sutter," the Mercury News reports (San Jose Mercury News, 2/7). The merger must be approved by the state attorney general's office, a process that is expected to take up to six months (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7).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.