The takeaway message from a July 11 press conference held in the Mayor’s Office touting legislation authorizing California Pacific Medical Center’s construction of two new San Francisco hospitals was seemingly this: Everyone hearts Lou Giraudo.
A part owner of Boudin Bakery and former president of the San Francisco Police Commission, Giraudo was called in last year to help mediate a deal that seemed doomed when CPMC, city officials, and a coalition of labor and community organizations were unable to hash out an agreement that was acceptable to all sides.
Negotiations have been contentious over the past year due to early indications that CPMC would not guarantee that St. Luke’s, a health care facility relied upon by many low-income San Franciscans, would keep its doors open as a condition of moving forward with the new Cathedral Hill facility, a centerpiece of CPMC’s $2.5 billion project.
Enter Giraudo, who was, according to a not-so-subtle hint dropped by former Mayor Willie Brown in his San Francisco Chronicle column last year, “quietly brought in” by the mayor’s office to fix the half-baked mess that the CPMC deal had evidently devolved into.
Sup. David Campos sang Giraudo’s praises, saying, “I have yet to meet a finer public servant,” and calling Giraudo “a real hero of mine.”
Giraudo himself told the Guardian that his strategy was “to de-politicize the process and get people to think about the community.”
Board President David Chiu, who worked closely with Campos and Sup. Mark Farrell to negotiate with CPMC and other parties on behalf of the Board, went so far as to compare Giraudo to Batman. He even joked that he was going to shine a bat signal the next time a negotiator was needed, in hopes that Giraudo would save the day.
Yet while Giraudo may have provided the catalyst needed for a deal, it was community advocates who ensured that the public at large benefited from the CPMC plan more than they would have otherwise — since the mayor’s office seemed willing to go along with the health care giant’s original terms.
Long before Giraudo’s involvement, a coalition of labor and community organizations waged a campaign to rebuild CPMC “the right way,” holding strong on the issue of St. Lukes and refusing to agree to anything that would leave open the possibility that the hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, would be shuttered. “That coalition has been working for quite some time … to save St. Lukes,” Campos said of the diverse coalition of community and labor leaders, who formed under the name San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Justice. “It kept working for many years.” Under the terms of the agreement that was ultimately agreed upon, St. Luke’s will have a number of specified services to ensure it remains a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 charity care patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal managed care patients per year. CPMC will also contribute $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, and it will pay $4.1 million to replace the homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill. While many advocates for San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations heralded the deal, some were disheartened that it did not dedicate space for psychiatric care.