June 12, 2001
Consumer Group Offers Recommendations For Ensuring That St. Luke’s Continues to Serve Area’s Low Income Residents
SAN FRANCISCO – Consumers Union urged the Attorney General today to set stricter conditions for the affiliation of the nonprofit St. Luke’s Hospital with Sutter Health. The Attorney General’s office is currently evaluating the proposed transaction and recently released a Health Impact Statement that outlines a series of conditions that should be imposed on the sale to minimize its potential negative impact. Consumers Union applauded those recommendations but urged the Attorney General to set higher standards to ensure the future availability of high quality and affordable healthcare at the hospital.
“This report represents a good first step by identifying many of the concerns that have been raised by the community about this proposal,” said Earl Lui, Staff Attorney at Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “But we urge the Attorney General to take additional steps to ensure that St. Luke’s continues to offer high quality healthcare to San Francisco’s low income residents.” The proposed transaction was the subject of a hearing by the Attorney General in San Francisco.
The Health Impact Statement, conducted by the Lewin Group, recommends that St. Luke’s skilled nursing services, emergency room and ICU, and the hospital’s Healthcare Center be maintained for the next five years. The Lewin Group also suggests that the hospital be required to continue providing charity care at its historic level for five years. Charity care is free inpatient and outpatient medical treatment and diagnostic services delivered to patients who are uninsured or underinsured and cannot afford to pay for all or part of the care.
Lui testified at the hearing that five years of protection for these valuable services is inadequate to protect the community that has relied on St. Luke’s for 130 years. He urged that these services be maintained for the life of the affiliation, or at the very least, that the Attorney General have the opportunity to review the affiliation after five years to determine whether the parties should be released from these obligations.
The Health Impact Statement notes that St. Luke’s provides care for 28 percent of Medi-Cal obstetrics patients and 26 percent of Medi-Cal pediatric patients in the hospital’s market. In addition, St. Luke’s treats one-third of the area’s Medicare and Medi-Cal patients needing psychiatric care. Yet the report does not offer any recommendation regarding the future of these services. Consumers Union is recommending that the psychiatric, obstetrics and pediatric services provided by St. Luke’s be maintained at their current or improved level because Medicare and Medi-Cal patients rely very heavily on St. Luke’s for their care.
“The Health Impact Statement’s recommendations were intended to represent the bare minimum that should be considered by the Attorney General when considering whether to approve this transaction,” said Lui. “Given the critical role that St Luke’s has played in serving the community, we urge the Attorney General to set stricter conditions on this affiliation.”
Michael McCauley – 415-431-6747
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.