The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday 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 — $5 million per year over four years — in county funds to assist a buyer to acquire and operate Seton hospitals. The county will give the money on the condition that the buyer continue to operate the hospitals and provide services during the transfer period.
Horsley said that another condition of the money is that if the buyer is not able to keep Seton Coastside open and functioning, the county would assume the land for 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 held last week in Daly City to discuss the potential effects on county health of Seton Medical’s closure. 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.”
At the 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, presented and implored the board to take action to save Seton Medical.
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 for taking action to address 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 1/2 years after suffering a stroke at 45. He said when choosing a skilled nursing facility for his son, Schumacher and his wife visited 28 facilities in a month before settling on Seton Coastside.
“The primary requirement is consistent, good healthcare,” 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.”