The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted on March 10 to spend $20 million to support a buyer for Seton Medical Center. According to Supervisor Don Horsley, Seton Coastside would be included in the purchase.
“There's no deal without Seton Coastside being part of it,” Horsley said. “It's not a money-losing operation.”
The vote, which passed 4-1 with the only “no” coming from Supervisor Dave Pine, is a deal to give $20 million, that is $5 million per year over four years, to assist a buyer to acquire and operate Seton hospitals. The county will give the money on the condition that the buyer continues to operate the hospitals and provide services during the transfer period.
Horsley said that another condition of the money is that if the buyer were not able to keep Seton Coastside functioning, the county would assume the land under the hospital. According to Horsley, the land can only be used for a hospital.
On the table for the county were proposals from each of the potential buyers, Strategic Global Management Inc., AHMC Healthcare Inc., and Verity Health, which currently owns the two hospitals.
The vote comes on the heels of a board meeting in Daly City to discuss the potential effects on county health if Seton Medical closed. According to the board, the county manager and county counsel spent the weekend reviewing the three proposals.
“This does give a second lifeline,” Supervisor David Canepa said. “We know this hospital is so important to the hospital ecosystem in San Mateo County.”
The Health Plan of San Mateo, a nonprofit that helps provide health coverage to county residents, is considering providing $10 million to cover half of the county’s promised support. The plan’s board, which includes Canepa and Horsley as well as County Manager Michael Callagy, is slated to vote on the issue April 8.
At the recent meeting, speakers, including Daly City government officials, patients and their families, representatives and leaders from the hospital, local school districts, unions and other local religious, cultural and advocacy groups, implored the board to save Seton Medical Center.
Many shared emotional, personal anecdotes about what the hospital means to their work, family and community. Many were alarmed about the prospect of Seton Medical closing during the coronavirus epidemic and thanked Canepa for taking the issue seriously and addressing it.
Representatives from SGM and Verity Health spoke during public comment, advocating for their proposals and disagreeing on why the sale fell through late last year.
Some speakers, including San Mateo resident and Seton Medical Center employee Esther Ekong, touched specifically on keeping the Seton Coastside facility afloat.
“As we mention Seton, I think we should keep in mind Seton Coastside,” Ekong said. “I cannot imagine what will happen to the residents of Half Moon Bay and how they will get to emergency services.”
Belmont resident Mike Schumacher spoke during public comment about his youngest son, who has lived as a patient in residence at Seton Coastside for the past 6 ½ years after suffering a stroke at age 45. He said, when choosing a skilled nursing facility for his son, he and his wife visited 28 facilities before settling on Seton Coastside.
“The primary requirement is consistent, good health care,” Schumacher said during public comment. “(My son) gets that at Seton Coastside. … So please, for God’s sake, show up.”
Schumacher said when he heard the hospitals might go under, he was worried.
“We were screwed,” Schumacher said. “We didn't have any options.”
Schumacher said he is still trying to figure out if the support from the county will be enough to keep the facility open, but applauded Canepa for his work.
“Canepa is an ace,” Schumacher said. “He’s got big guts.”