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UCSF a Step Closer to Buying One of the Bay Area’s Oldest Hospitals

Written by Bay City NewsPublished Jul. 20, 2023 • 5:51pm
St. Mary’s Medical Center, founded in 1857, is currently operated by the Dignity Health hospital system | Source: San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The sale of one of the Bay Area’s oldest operating hospitals to the University of California San Francisco is moving forward as the UC Board of Regents begins negotiations to purchase St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The hospital, founded in 1857 by the Catholic organization Sisters of Mercy, is currently operated by the Dignity Health hospital system. In addition to St. Mary’s, UCSF has signaled its intentions to purchase St. Francis Memorial Hospital, another San Francisco medical center operated by Dignity Health.

The total sale, including the two hospitals and their outpatient clinics, would be less than $100 million, according to UC documents. 

Save St. Mary’s, a group made up of staff members at St. Mary’s, claims that the sale would be unnecessary if not for years of financial mismanagement by Dignity Health. In a letter signed by several doctors with decades of experience at the hospital, staffers demanded they be given a seat at the table during negotiations of the sale.

“If UCSF is truly committed to compassionate, patient-centered care for all, they will include our input and ensure that San Francisco’s most historic and oldest community hospital can continue to thrive under the UCSF brand,” said Save St. Mary's in a statement Wednesday.

The group also raised concerns about the direction of the hospital under UCSF and asked for written assurances of the continued support of St. Mary’s programs like the physician residency program and specialized care centers such as the Women’s Center and the Sister Mary Philippa Health Center, which provides hospital care to homeless and low-income patients.

“Our commitment to serve the city’s healthcare needs began with the Sisters of Mercy of America more than 150 years ago,” Julie Sprengel, the Dignity Health California division president, said in a statement. “We are honored to be the provider of choice for generations of San Franciscans.”

“While we are at the very beginning of this process and discussions with UCSF Health will continue for several months, we are committed to keeping our employees, physicians and the community informed. Most importantly, throughout the process, our patients will continue to receive the same high-quality care they have come to expect.”

UC officials have said that they do not intend to fundamentally change the services offered at either hospital and that physicians currently employed at St. Mary’s and St. Francis will be offered positions at the UCSF-run hospitals following the sale. The sale of the two hospitals will add a total of 569 new hospital beds to UCSF's health care network. 

St. Francis Memorial Hospital was founded in 1905 and has the largest intensive care burn unit in Northern California with a capacity of 16 beds.

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