Lack of charity

Report says CPMC is extracting huge profits from San Francisco but doing little charity care
CPMC is seeking to build a huge new hospital on Cathedral Hill

Activists and city officials are challenging California Pacific Medical Center — which a new study shows provides far less charity care than other San Francisco hospitals — to do more for all city residents if it wants approval for the massive new high-end hospital and housing project it is seeking to build on Cathedral Hill.

That $2.2 billion project, which the city will consider sometime next year, would also rebuild or modify four other CPMC hospitals in town, including St. Luke's Hospital, which serves low-income Mission District residents, but which will see its number of beds cuts from 130 now down to 80.

Community groups opposed to the CPMC project as it now stands — including the Good Neighborhood Coalition, Jobs with Justice, and Coalition for Health Planning-San Francisco — commissioned the UC Hastings College of Law to study how CPMC's charity care compares with other nonprofit hospitals in the city.

The result, "Profits & Patients: the Financial Strength and Charitable Contributions of San Francisco Hospitals," was released Dec. 8 and was scheduled to be the subject of a public hearing at the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 13 after Guardian press time. Activists planned to use the hearing to highlight some of the report's most damning conclusions about CPMC and its nonprofit parent company, Sacramento-based Sutter Health.

"Mainly due to Sutter Health's plan to alter its current hospital structure within San Francisco, the provision of community health benefits by San Francisco hospitals is now a major issue before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors," the report reads.

The report compares CPMC's hospitals with St. Francis Memorial Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center (both are Catholic Healthcare West facilities), and Chinese Hospital, as well as noting how the city-run General Hospital provides by far the most charity care in town. The report finds CPMC is only spending about 1 percent of its revenues on charity care while the city sets a minimum standard of 3 percent.

Even before that project, CPMC/Sutter is the dominant health provider in town, and by far the most profitable. Between 2006-2010, the report says the company made $743.9 million in profits from its San Francisco operations, compared to St. Mary's $22.6 million in profits and the $14.8 million loss by St. Francis.

"Our analysis shows that CPMC has the financial capacity to provide more of a share of services for uninsured and underinsured San Franciscans than it presently does, and that it is crucial for CPMC to do so in order to meet the city's health care needs," said Jeff Ugai, a Hastings student who worked on the study.

In 2010 CPMC's three oldest campuses — Pacific, Davies, and California — provided charity care at a patients per bed rate less than half that of St. Francis, even though CPMC is triple St. Francis's size and has much greater financial stability.

"St. Francis meets a huge amount of charity care patients. CPMC clearly can and should meet healthcare needs," said Emily Lee, a member of the Chinese Progressive Association who spoke at a press conference announcing the report. "From the position of the coalitions, we want to see a project, and we want to see a good project."

But CPMC, which has been resisting calls by Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials to commit to more charity care as a condition for its project, isn't even accepting the report's damning conclusions that it is extracting huge profits from San Francisco and giving little back.

"It depends on how you calculate it," said CPMC spokesperson Kevin McCormack. "As a dollar amount, we give more in charity care than any other hospital except for General Hospital."

That's not surprising given that CPMC makes more money in San Francisco than any other hospital, enough that it has become a cash cow for the entire chain.


Anyway, as we discussed then, CPMC is not under any obligation to provide any free or charitable work. So the fact that they do some should be commended, rather than criticized simply because some other entities do more.

And as you note, the city's own hospital - SFGH - does even less charity work. So much for the public model of healthcare.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 11:41 am

The display of ignorance here is staggering. You'd think you were paid shill for CPMC but I know you're not, because you're always on here spouting similar views (though usually not this devoid of knowledge).

Why would SF General have to provide charity care? They make no money at all. They are funded by my tax dollars. CPMC doesn't pay ANY taxes on their 150m of profit a year, thereby taking money from me. When they don't provide charity care (as expected of nonprofit hospitals) they are pushing that burden to SF General where once again my tax dollars are being used.

As someone who is more conservative than me, why wouldn't you care that CPMC is taking money from you? Why wouldn't that concern you as a taxpayer?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

Any hospital can give medical care without charging. Doesn't matter if it is private or public.

And, again, since you obviously missed the point - charitable giving is VOLUNTARY. As in, discretionary, optional and non-mandatory!!!

I'll take this slowly for you. No person or entity is ever obligated to do work for free. But if they choose to do so, we should thank them. And not compare them to another entity that may elect to give more.

See? It really wasn't that difficult to understand, was it?

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

charity care is not voluntary because as a city we expect it, and we will require the highest achievable level of charity care from CPMC, if they expect to get our further approval - which we have every right to withhold from them if they don't

their past record is pathetic, and we are now quite rightly demanding better

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 14, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

You are too much. Its like arguing constitutional law with someone who has never read the constitution before, but "feels" a certain way about it.

Here is some Thursday morning reading for you if you would like to engage with us on this topic further. You may not ideologically agree that a non-profit hospital should be required to provide charity care, but I don't ideologically agree that any entity that makes $142m a year should be a 501(c)(3) non-profit and avoid paying ANY taxes. They should be stripped of that status immediately.

They won't however, but they should improve their charity care levels at the very least.

SF Charity Care Ordinance -

AB 774 at the state level -

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2011 @ 12:08 am

CPMC profits are "taking money from you", but tax dollars do not?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

Pretty obvious SFBG is out to slander the hospital in a last ditch effort to extort. Why would we want an earthquake ready hospital? Why would we want to see entire blocks of blight removed? Didn't you know that being centrally located and mass transit accessible is bad for poor people? Oh, right. Because someone isn't getting something for free. Or, at least acting on behalf of people who want stuff for free so they can be exploited....cough... Steve Woo of TNDC. You people make me sick.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

I am a homeowner very close to the proposed new hospital. I am all for the hospital and look forward to it's completion.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 30, 2011 @ 8:32 pm