Letter: County’s statement on medical center closure

Press release

Posted by on Wed, March 18, 2009

We are saddened by the closure of Coastside Family Medical Center. We understand the unique role it served in, and its value to, the community; which is why we have been working to help.

As part of this, San Mateo County – and by that we mean all San Mateo County taxpayers – have paid the monthly $23,450 rent for the Coastside Family Medical Center since last August. That amounts to well over $150,000 in taxpayer assistance.

We have worked closely with Coastside Family Medical Center to help them develop a successful financial strategy to overcome their budget shortfalls. Within the last month, Coastside presented us with a proposal that asked for an additional $300,000 in taxpayer funds – in addition to the monthly rent payments. We could not in good conscience risk $300,000 of taxpayer funds based on the business plan presented. [emphasis added]

We offered to continue to work with Coastside and other health-care providers to develop alternatives, expecting that Coastside would remain open through the end of this month. We had hoped to come to an agreement in that time frame and also have some time for transition planning if CFMC was not able to keep its doors open.

Coastside Family Medical Center Board members worked hard to find answers, but last week reached the difficult decision to close. Coastside closed the facility quite suddenly on Friday, March 13.

What’s important now is to ensure the privacy and accessibility of personal medical records. On Thursday and Friday from 10 to 2, representatives of the Health Plan of San Mateo will be on site to answer questions for their patients. The Health Plan of San Mateo is a County organized health system that provides health care benefits to San Mateo County’s underserved residents.

We recommend that Coastside patients represented by other insurers contact the appropriate insurer. Meanwhile, we are working closely with private health care providers to develop options for former Coastside patients. We are proud that community physicians have responded to the advocacy and outreach of the Health Plan of San Mateo during the past three days; as of today, community physicians have volunteered to accept more than half of the low-income, publicly covered clients as patients.

Please be assured the County of San Mateo will continue to work with our community partners to explore a sustainable health care delivery system. HPSM members can contact the Health Plan of San Mateo with any questions at 1-800-750-4776.

Marshall Wilson
Public Communications Manager
(650) 363-4153
[email protected]

The County states “We could not in good conscience risk $300,000 of taxpayer funds based on the business plan presented.”

Regarding the failed business model, it is becoming increasingly clear that the center’s closure was inevitable. But that does not excuse the complete mismanagement of the closure by the CFMC Board of Directors who blind-sided the professional staff and put thousands of people through needless stress and turmoil (more on that below). 

The San Mateo County Times reported this week that the center “served about 26,000 patients a year, 40 percent of whom were uninsured.” 

The center’s financial problems were evident three years ago when the economy was still booming. A January 25, 2006 HMB Review article included the following quote from then CFMC President and CEO Don Fox:

“We are faced with having to provide care in an area with many low-income families and in so doing we are using a sliding scale for payment and it’s not allowing us to support ourselves, said Fox.”

From the CFMC website, the current Board of Directors is

<li>Everett Ascher, Chairman (also CCWD elected official)</li>
<li>Patrick Ryan </li>
<li>Mike Laffen </li>
<li>Carol Young-Holt </li>
<li>Charise McHugh (also CEO, HMB Chamber of Commerce)</li>
<li>Pablo Jaime </li>
<li>Matthew Johnston</li>
<li>Mary-Lou Smulders </li>
<li>Steve Wilson </li>
<li>Daniel Canafax </li>
<li>Larry Bowen </li>
<li>Bob Mitton </li>
<li>Bonnie McClung (current HMB City Council member) is a recent past board member of CFMC.</li>

Hopefully, these board members will be held accountable by the public for the complete lack of planning for the center’s closure and for the Board’s deafening silence when the public was seeking information over the past few days.

But don’t expect the Half Moon Bay Review to hold the CFMC Board accountable. Today’s edition of the Review included an editorial by Clay Lambert which stated:

“But don’t blame the fine people who made several incarnations of the Coastside Family Medical Center an improbable going enterprise for nearly 25 years… We think the board of directors did all it could to arrest costs and wring funding from public and private sources…”

Lambert makes no mention whatsoever of the Board’s role in the closure fiasco that put people through all sorts of unecessary chaos in the past few days.

This is another example of the Review’s failure to hold certain favored people accountable for their actions, even when they harm the entire community.