After months of protests from families, city supervisors and public health officials, California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) announced that it will continue to care for 28 patients with complex medical needs, instead of transferring them to other facilities outside the city.
In June, the patients and their families received letters from CPMC saying that the skilled nursing unit where they lived at St. Luke's Hospital, known as a "subacute" unit, was closing permanently. The hospital as a whole is closing because it doesn't meet earthquake codes, but CPMC officials are replacing it with a new building on the same site in the Mission district. But they did not plan to include any subacute beds in the new hospital, nor would they create a subacute unit in another new hospital under construction near Japantown.
But in an unexpected reversal, CPMC CEO Dr. Warren Browner said Monday the hospital system will continue to care for the 28 patients who would have been affected. Spokesman Dean Fryer said the medical center changed course after hearing concerns about the potential impact of the transition on patients and their families. CPMC officials also changed their minds after facing challenges securing beds for patients elsewhere in the Bay Area.
Subacute nursing units treat patients with complex medical needs, such as those on ventilators, for months or even years. The patients don’t need as much care as a regular “acute” hospital patient, but do need a level of skilled nursing care that is difficult to provide at home.
The subacute unit at St. Luke's is the last one in San Francisco based at a hospital. Regionally and nationally, hospitals have been shuttering these units. The patients demand a high level of care, but reimbursements for the treatment -- typically through Medicaid -- are low compared to private insurance.