UCSF Health has signed a definitive agreement with Dignity Health to acquire Saint Francis Memorial Hospital (Saint Francis) and St. Mary’s Medical Center (St. Mary’s), along with associated outpatient clinics in San Francisco. The organization hopes to close the transaction in spring 2024.
Building on decades of collaboration between the organizations, the acquisition ensures that two of San Francisco’s longest-serving community hospitals – and the unique services they provide – remain accessible to San Franciscans.
“St. Mary’s and Saint Francis have a proud history of providing comprehensive health care in San Francisco,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Health. “This is an opportunity to honor that legacy, expanding access and enhancing care for our neighbors while reinforcing UCSF Health’s deep commitment to our hometown.”
Keeping Care in San Francisco
UCSF Health has committed to maintaining Saint Francis and St. Mary’s existing services, ensuring patients have convenient local access for their primary and specialty care needs. UCSF Health has also committed to retention of the employees of both hospitals. Preserving these historic hospitals will keep patients connected with their care providers and maintain vital services like the Bothin Burn Center, the Gender Institute, the McAuley Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, and the Sister Mary Philippa Health Center at a time when communities are losing health care options.
“Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center have cared for the most vulnerable among us and offered specialized services not available at any other local care sites,” said Dr. Richard Podolin, cardiologist and chair, Dignity Health St. Mary’s Medical Center Community Board. “The transition of ownership and investment by UCSF Health will ensure these hospitals carry this legacy forward, providing access to high-quality, patient-centered care and services to all San Franciscans.”
Saint Francis and St. Mary’s will retain their open medical staffs, a departure from the faculty-based structure at UCSF Health’s other hospitals. Ensuring local doctors can continue to practice at each location preserves critical, longstanding patient-provider relationships and supports San Francisco’s diverse medical community.
In recognition of their long history of caring for San Franciscans and deep roots in the community, and as the newest addition to the UCSF Health system, the two hospitals’ new names will be UCSF Health Saint Francis Hospital and UCSF Health St. Mary’s Hospital.
Building on a Legacy of Community Care
UCSF Health plans to build on the strengths of the hospitals, including their dedicated community physicians and employed staff, by expanding key services such as cardiology and surgery in the first year. Initial plans also include bolstering hospital medicine programs and both emergency departments to better support care providers and improve patients’ experience.
Shelby Decosta, president of the UCSF Health Affiliates Network, a longtime UCSF Health leader and Dignity Health alum, will have executive oversight over the two hospitals.
We’re investing in the people, programs and infrastructure of Saint Francis and St. Mary’s, and ultimately, improving the health of San Francisco.Shelby DecostaPresident, UCSF Health Affiliates Network
“We’re investing in the people, programs and infrastructure of Saint Francis and St. Mary’s, and ultimately, improving the health of San Francisco,” said Decosta. “We have identified immediate opportunities to support our new colleagues with upgraded technology and equipment, and to strengthen services that the community relies on these hospitals to provide.”
“For generations, Dignity Health has been committed to improving the health of San Franciscans, especially those who are vulnerable,” said Julie Sprengel, president, CommonSpirit Health’s California region, of which Dignity Health is a part. “Joining UCSF Health’s network increases care options for our patients, while ensuring that the vital services offered only at Saint Francis and St. Mary’s continue.”
A New Direction for UCSF Health
Moving beyond the complex specialty care it is known for, UCSF Health is making a meaningful shift toward incorporating convenient and comprehensive community-based care into its health system. These investments will also open unused bed space in both hospitals for patients who need primary and specialty care in San Francisco.
“This is about enabling the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Whether you’re coming to UCSF Health from around the world or around the corner, you should be able to easily access excellent, compassionate health care services,” stated Gunasekaran. “For us, that looks like a culturally responsive health care network that San Franciscans can rely on for everyday issues or a complicated health crisis – regardless of their ability to pay.”
In the near term, increasing staffing and resources at Saint Francis and St. Mary’s will allow more patients across San Francisco to be seen at the currently under-utilized hospitals and will help UCSF Health see more patients with complex health conditions at its other sites, including the new hospital at Parnassus Heights opening in 2030.
Connecting the Community to World-Class Care
Bringing Saint Francis and St. Mary’s into the health system also expands access to UCSF Health’s internationally renowned experts and highly specialized, innovative care. Connecting both hospitals' community-based care with the clinical excellence of UCSF Health’s academic medical center will help enhance already strong patient outcomes, quality and safety.
Consistently ranked as one of the top hospitals in the United States, UCSF Medical Center was named to the Honor Roll of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-2024. The medical center was also listed among the country’s top 10 hospitals in seven specialties: neurology/neurosurgery, geriatric care, psychiatry, cancer, autoimmune disorders, pulmonology/lung surgery, and ophthalmology.
Powered by long-standing collaborations across care delivery, research and education missions that drive innovation and transform lives, UCSF received the most funding of any public institution from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2022 for the 16th year running. As a world-leader in innovative research and one of the highest-ranked medical schools in the country, the university also brings to Saint Francis and St. Mary’s increased access to life-changing clinical trials and the next generation of health care providers.
Patient-Centered Plans for Integration
Once the transaction is complete, UCSF Health will embark on a multi-year integration process, prioritizing patients and their care experience. Currently, the two hospitals have limited integration with one another, and all three entities have different systems and processes for IT, electronic medical records, scheduling, payroll and communications.
“Our integration plans are people-first,” said Decosta. “We’re committed to minimizing disruption to patients, services and team members while we engage in long-term efforts to effectively support and align our services, staff and infrastructure.”
Added Sprengel, “It’s meaningful for us that the dedicated caregivers at these hospitals will be part of an organization that shares our values and is equally committed to its workforce.”
Advancing the Health of San Francisco
Bringing community care and academic medicine together is a unique opportunity for UCSF Health to meet the health needs of San Franciscans in an integrated and equitable way. The organization has served San Francisco for more than 150 years, from providing complex care backed by pioneering research to improving the health of underserved and under-resourced communities.
Investing in the health of a community is the best way to advance that community. At a critical time for San Francisco, UCSF Health is all in.Suresh GunasekaranPresident and Chief Executive Officer, UCSF Health
“Investing in the health of a community is the best way to advance that community. At a critical time for San Francisco, UCSF Health is all in,” added Gunasekaran.
UCSF Health announced plans for the acquisition in July 2023, after the UC Board of Regents approved the organization moving forward with the deal. You can learn more about the details at ucsfhealth.org/sfcommunityhospitals.