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State Lawmakers Seek To Block Seton Medical Center Closure In Daly City Amid Coronavirus Spread

DALY CITY (CBS SF) -- A group of state legislators on Thursday called on Verity Health Systems to reverse its decision to close Seton Medical Center in Daly City, arguing that the closure will make it harder for nearby residents to get to a hospital and affect the ability to treat coronavirus cases.

State Sens. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblymembers Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, released a joint statement about the hospital's possible closure, which could come as soon as next week.

In addition to requesting that Verity Health Systems change its decision about the hospital's fate, the legislators argued the company did not follow state law that requires 90-day notice when closing an emergency room.

"Verity Health System's decision to close two facilities will have a terrible impact to our communities in the southern portion of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County," the four legislators wrote in their statement. "With COVID-19 posing a public health challenge and our homelessness crisis worsening -- both of which are increasing trips to the ER -- the closure of Seton Medical Center in Daly City is a huge problem for the community."

Verity Health declared bankruptcy in 2018 and worked for much of 2019 on a sale agreement with the consultant group Strategic Global Management that may have kept the health care company solvent.

That deal did not get done by its December deadline, however, and Verity Health appeared to pivot to shuttering some of its facilities, including a hospital in Los Angeles and Seton Coastside in Moss Beach.

The closure would force the roughly 27,000 people who use Seton Medical Center each year to travel further for urgent medical care, which could ultimately lead to overcrowding at nearby hospitals. The group of legislators also noted that the closure would make it harder to treat homeless residents and current and future cases of novel coronavirus.

Nurses represented by the California Nurses Association plan to hold a news conference and rally Friday morning to stop the medical center's closure. San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, Daly City City Councilwoman Pamela DiGiovanni and Colma Mayor John Goodwin are expected to join the demonstration.

"With reports of a dangerous pandemic that is rapidly growing across California and poses a significant threat to our community, it is unconscionable that we could be facing the loss of our hospital with almost no public notice," Seton Medical Center intensive care nurse Phoebe Minkler said.

Officials with Verity Health Systems were not immediately available to comment on the possible closure.

The County of San Mateo on Friday replaced a local call center number with a new service that will more than double the hours residents can get information about the coronavirus known as COVID-19 – 2-1-1.

2-1-1 is a confidential service accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 180 languages. Callers can get answers to questions about how residents, schools and businesses should prepare for COVID-19, as well as ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

The County established a local call center after the County of San Mateo proclaiming a local emergency and County Health declaring a local health emergency. By engaging 2-1-1, the County taps into a nationwide network of trained professionals with experience fielding questions and providing fact-based answers.

"We understand a number of residents have concerns about their health and the health of their families," said County Manager Mike Callagy. "The 2-1-1 service provides exceptional service that will be available to our residents when they need it."

The service also offers a text option.

Users can text "coronavirus" to "211211" to receive useful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After receiving a return text message, residents can enter a ZIP code for county-specific health-related links.

The County launched a local call service on Thursday staffed by a dozen County employees. The center received 233 calls through 10 a.m. Friday.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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