Town hall on medical center closure offers cold comfort to community


Posted by on Mon, March 23, 2009

Barry Parr
This small photo doesn't do justice to the size of the crowd. Click for larger image.
Barry Parr
Supervisor Rich Gordon asks the crowd for written questions.

Hundreds of Coastsiders packed the Cunha Intermediate School multipurpose room for a town hall meeting on the closure of the Coastside Family Medical Center.

Even ten days after the closure of the Center, it is still impossible to get accurate information on medical records. One member of the audience contradicted Supervisor Rich Gordon, who called the meeting, on whether patients were entitled to receive their medical records without charge from the Center.

According to Gordon, the approximately 8,000 patients of the CFMC are divided in roughly into three groups:

  • 2,000 were affiliated with Mills Peninsula Medical Group and will be assigned new physicians by the group.
  • 2,000 were in county managed programs, such as MediCal, and are in the process of being assigned new physicians by the Health Plan of San Mateo.
  • 4,000 were on private insurance or self-paying. They were told to contact their insurance company to get a new physician to receive their records.

It became clear during the Q&A that many members of the audience still expected that some accomodation could be found that would bring back the center. Supervisor Gordon offered no hope that the Center, which had declared bankruptcy, would ever reopen.

Gordon said the County had been paying the Center’s $25,000 monthly rent for the last six months, but had balked at a last-minute loan of $300,000. Gordon noted that the county already had $6 to $7 million in unfunded federal medical mandates.

About half the audience were Hispanic, and many of them did not speak English. The meeting was translated by a member of Gordon’s staff and later by a woman from the audience.

Many in the crowd were angry at the way the closure had been handled and called for CFMC board members Ev Ascher and Charise McHugh, who were at the meeting, to come to the stage.  Gordon said that although he though the handling of the closure was "unconscionable", he refused to call up the directors, saying: "We’d like someone to focus our anger on, but I’m not sure how productive that would be."

Cheryl Sinclair from Seton Coastside in Moss Beach was on hand to assure the community that rumors Seton Coastside would close are false and that it would continue its 35 years of service to the community.

I talked to Sinclair afterward and she said that so far the emergency room at Seton was not being overtaxed by spillover from CFMC, but that many patients did not yet know that CFMC had closed or that Seton was available.

Darin Boville was at the meeting taking video for Montara Fog. He has posted full, English, and Spanish versions of the meeting.

Click to download the information sheet distributed at the meeting. [updated Mar 26]


Well, it’s not unexpected that master politician Rich Gordon would now express outrage over the closure fiasco.

From the beginning, most people in the community saw the CFMC board’s action to abruptly close the clinic as a jawdropping screw-up. Moreover, due to their failed stewardship, a valuable community resource is now gone forever.

It’s really too bad that Review editor Clay Lambert failed to hold the CFMC board accountable for this mess when he had the chance in last week’s editorial. Instead, Lambert urged readers not to blame the board, stating that board members “did all they could.”

I don’t understand why my physician has to request my medical records.  They are my records.  Why can’t I have them.  Was this addressed at the meeting?

This was raised at the meeting and at least one knowledgeable person said that after talking to the state he believed it is your right to get the originals of your records at no charge.

Supervisor Gordon said he’d look into this, but we’ve heard nothing so far.

Right now, we have competing versions of what the law is.

I can’t figure out why supervisor Gordan even had the meeting.  He had no new information, no solutions and was no help to the community.  What a waste of time.

I think this is the real reason why Gordon called the meeting:

Although no one on the Coastside will get to vote when Rich Gordon runs for that Assembly seat. He’s a lame duck as far as we’re concerned.

One thing the meeting did accomplish was to introduce CFMC patients to Seton and a couple of other resources.

Another thing it accomplished was to drive home, for at least a few additional citizens, that CFMC is never coming back and that the time for hope is past.

It seemed to me that the goal of the meeting was to create the appearance of “doing something”, despite the fact that there is nothing to be done.

It’s true that Rich Gordon is running for Assembly in a district that does not include the Coastside.

Still, this fiasco happended on Gordon’s watch and it remains unclear what he knew in advance about the closure and when he knew it.

This is certainly something that Assembly voters in the other district may wish to consider about Gordon’s record.