The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors provided a lifeline to the ‘ailing’ Seton Hospital by appropriating $20 million dollars to save the hospital form closure.

The Board composed of President Warren Slocum (District 4), Dave Pine (District 1), Carole Groom (District 2), Don Horsley (District 3) and Board Vice President David Canepa (District 5) adopted the motion of Canepa, whose district covers Daly City where Seton Hospital is located, four votes in favor and one voting no, to allocate $20 million to keep the hospital in operation.

Pine was the lone opposition to the Canepa motion although he explicitly stated that he does not want the hospital to close Daly City’s largest employer and most dependable hospital that cater mostly to the most underserved members of the community.

The motion was “to appropriate $20 million in County funds with the request from the health plan of San Mateo to contribute the amount of $10 million to assist the entity to acquire and operate Seton Hospital subject to the following condtions:

Closing of the transactions between Verity and such entity;

Requiring such entity to operate Seton Hospital as a full-service hospital consistent with California’s attorney-general’s conditions;

Subsidy paid at the rate of $5 million per year for four (4) years beginning at sale close;

Funds to be appropriately secured as determined by the staff and the Board;

Acquiring entity to provide continuous services that afford county-wide public benefit; and

Provision of satisfactory business funds and financials, negotiations and appropriate form of agreement and annual reporting in satisfaction of these conditions.”

“This is incredible news for Seton as the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors  pledged $20 million today to help keep the hospital open. This is a big step but there’s still more work ahead,” Canepa was elated.

The vote comes after the board heard a report from their working staff on the status of negotiations between seller and buyers aside from where the county funds stand to know how the county can possibly save the hospital.

There were also some twenty speakers coming from all over the county with many actually working in the hospital who mostly spoke on the importance of keeping Seton operational.

Filipinos nurses, doctors, other medical workers and community supporters were not to be left behind as they made sure that their voices were heard.

Canepa, in a March 7 second emergency board meeting last week, presented a motion “to discuss and/or take action on a staff plan to provide bridge or gap funding to assist in a potential purchase or sale agreement of Seton Hospital and in addition, for board consideration, potential funding for a seismic retrofit.”

The board’s working staff was supposed to come up with the plan over the weekend to know and understand where the negotiations between two potential buyers and seller are and the gap in their negotiations. The staff did just that and presented their report to the board to guide the board in their decision.

They also are to look into what the seismic considerations on Seton are and bring all these information to the board, together with funding numbers based on the information provided in the Friday meeting for the consideration of the Board members before they can make a decision.

In an interview after the Friday meeting, Canepa confirmed that Seton Hospital in on the verge of closure after the Board of Directors of Verity Health, Seton’s owners, announced Wednesday May 4 that they want to close the hospital in a week’s time.

San Mateo County District 5 Supervisor and Board Vice President David Canepa

“If we do not have this hospital, it is a healthcare desert not only in Daly City and Pacifica but also in San Francisco as San Franciscans also use the hospital. On Tuesday, the board will have the regular Supervisors meeting.  That meeting is going to address what we could do for bridge funding and to look at what we can do for the seismic needs,” beamed a victorious Canepa after the unanimous vote on his motion.

The Friday meeting was also packed by the community including nurses and doctors that bravely stood up in support of the hospital’s continued operation.

“This hospital has 365 beds and can be sued as a resource.  All health officers are trying to get a grip on COVID-19. No one knows how to deal with this virus. It is a fluid situation. So we need to make sure that we keep Seton Hospital open because of the pandemic which could occur as it spreads real fast,” Canepa underscored. “And so today was a win for the doctors, nurses, for the community but we are not finished. We have one more step on this item on Tuesday.”

Among those who stood up and expressed his support of Seton Hospital was South San Francisco Fil-Am Councilmember Mark Nagales who aired his concern that the emergency patients of a closed Seton Hospital will spill over to the nearby Kaiser Permanente in his city where patients may suffer longer periods of waiting time before a doctor attends to them.

“South San Francisco is already serving around 42,000 patients yearly while Seton has 29,000. If Seton were to close, South San Francisco will be affected as well. The entire San Mateo County will be flooded with new patients trying to find care and that all hospitals in the county will be affected as well,” stressed Nagales.

South San Francisco Councilmember Mark Nagales

Nevertheless, Nagales is optimistic that since the doctors, nurses, the community came out in full support of Seton, the seller may be pressured to really sell Seton to interested buyers in terms acceptable to both parties.

“If the hospital would continue to be open for another three to four months (with the help of the county) then it will give both seller and buyer a little more time to seal the deal. I am actually terrified as to what happens to the patients in the hospital if Seton closes,” Nagales admitted.

Erstwhile 2014-16 Seton Hospital Filipino Chief of Staff Dr. Herminigildo Valle feels frustrated that Verity Health that took over from the Daughters of Charity, has not been supportive of the continuation of services.

“The owners even tried to remove the equipments that we need and trasfer them to other hospitals. They have replaced competent staff members. We had specializations that were there discontinued. We no longer have the basic needed equipment in the emergency and operating rooms that we had before,” a dejected Valle shared.

Former Seton Hospital Chief of Staff Herminigildo Valle reveals that Seton Hospital owner Verity Health has not really been supportive of hospital operation.

A internist with Seton since 1991, Valle regarded the eleventh-hour meeting after the threat of closure of Seton as the most difficult part to accept as he has been with the hospital for almost thirty years.

“We serve very diverse patients, most of which are of Filipinos, over the years. That is why I demand from the county supervisors’ offices that they reconsider their plans for the construction of parking lots, streets and buildings in order to keep Seton Hospital open and operational,” Valle insisted. Daly City is home to Filipinos that comprise more than 30% of the city’s population.

Like Nagales, Valle is expressed guarded optimism that the hospital will remain open as organizations, labor unions and other groups as well members of the community will dissuade and block any attempt to close the hospital down.

“We have to gather together and mobilize our citizens that will be impacted by this closure and have their voices and demands heard. They should also  have their faces seen and be physically present when we lead them to be on the streets when we need to,” Valle emphasized.