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San Francisco | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Did California Pacific Medical Center Push UCSF Docs Out?
by Lee White
Sunday Sep 13th, 2009 9:20 PM
Thousands of HMO subscribers who receive care in San Francisco have a choice to make: Go with Hill Physicians and keep their UCSF docs or stay with Brown & Toland and lose UCSF access. The change not only places patients on the horns of a dilemma, but it could irreparably harm the Bay Area’s public health infrastructure. And Sutter Health, a corporation that wants to build a new hospital in San Francisco, may have played a role in forcing UCSF’s physicians out of Brown & Toland.
Effective January 1, thousands of HMO patients in Northern California will lose access to doctors at the University of California-San Francisco unless those patients change physician groups. Brown & Toland Medical Group has terminated its relationship with UCSF’s physicians. The UCSF doctors will become members of Hill Physicians. In order to continue seeing UCSF physicians, Brown & Toland patients will have to switch primary care providers to Hill Physicians. State regulations allow some Brown & Toland patients to continue seeing specialists at UCSF without prior insurance authorization until January 1, 2011.

This change carries with it major and unsettling implications for public health care. UCSF is a state-funded institution whose physicians also serve the most vulnerable patients in the area at San Francisco General Hospital and the Veterans Administration Medical Center. If UCSF’s hospital and clinics lose patients and revenue, painful cuts to care and tax and user fee increases will be the natural results. I’m also concerned that a decrease in patients might negatively impact charitable contributions to UCSF.

A physician I spoke with the other day told me California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) encouraged Brown & Toland to sever ties with the UCSF physicians. I have sent letters calling on Bay Area elected officials at the national, state, and local levels to investigate what role, if any, CPMC played in forcing patients to choose between Hill Physicians and Brown & Toland.

It is worth noting that CPMC and its parent company, Sutter Health, are seeking regulatory approval to build a brand new hospital at the corner of Geary and Van Ness in San Francisco. If, indeed, CPMC engineered this attack on San Francisco’s public health infrastructure, it should not be allowed to create for itself a wide and deep revenue stream with which to line the pockets of its already-overpaid executives. Let CPMC complete earthquake retrofits on its existing campuses.