Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Zuckerberg hospital set to open Saturday


The main entrance to the new Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, which opens Saturday. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center is preparing to move about 200 patients into its new main facility at 1001 Potrero Avenue, which will include expanded emergency services and private rooms. The new site is set to open Saturday, May 21.

In an interview this week, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Todd May, said, "We're very excited. ... It's a big day for us, and for the city."

May, a straight ally who's been with the hospital best known as San Francisco General for about 20 years, said, "One major feature is the expanded and enhanced emergency department." That includes a Level One trauma center.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General has "the only trauma center in San Francisco and in north San Mateo County," he said. "We do about 30 percent of all the ambulance traffic in the city."

The current emergency space is "very small" with "really unacceptable conditions," May said. "There are patients in hallways."

With the new building, the department will go from 27 beds to 58.

"In case of a disaster, we can actually double up occupancy in those beds," May said, so there could be more than 100 emergency beds if they were needed.

The department will also include a radiology unit, so critically ill patients won't have to go anywhere for CT scans.

Additionally, he said, most of the patients' rooms in the new hospital facility are private.

"Currently we have very, very few private rooms, and we only use those for isolation," such as when a patient's contagious, May said.

He said the biggest challenge has been "orienting and training our personnel to move into a brand new building," with different workflows and designs, "and new equipment."

The patients being moved Saturday are in acute care, which includes people who are in the general medical/surgical, intensive care, and maternal/child health units. Anyone who comes to the emergency department after 7 a.m. Saturday will be going to the new building.

A bond San Francisco voters approved in 2008 financed the new center. The building cost about $887 million, not including furniture, fixtures, and equipment. The hospital serves more than 100,000 people a year. Many of them are among San Francisco's poorest residents.

May said, "The next opportunity for us is to repurpose the space that we vacate in the current building." That facility, which already houses numerous specialty clinics, will also include primary and "all specialty care," including the pioneering Ward 86 HIV clinic.

First, though, the old building "needs to be retrofitted with seismic upgrades and some reconfiguration," May said.

Proposition A, which is on the June ballot, would authorize general obligation bonds in the amount of $350 million to be used for public health and safety measures, including seismic stability for the old San Francisco General, which is also known as Building 5. If the bond passes, work could begin in June 2017.

The public health department, which oversees Zuckerberg San Francisco General, also wants to expand the number of beds available at that site for emergency psychiatric care.

Such services are often associated with homeless people, but in a recent meeting with the Bay Area Reporter, Health Director Barbara Garcia said, "Many of our families have mental health issues," and many of the people who seek help are "moms calling about their kids."

"In community meetings over and over again, we heard the need for mental health" services, Garcia, a lesbian, said.

The new hospital was renamed after a $75 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Pricilla Chan.

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