Seton temporarily shuts Moss Beach ER; workers protest health benefits

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Seton Medical Center’s Coastside emergency room in Moss Beach is set to temporarily close for nine months beginning Monday, April 1. The announcement came as workers at the health care provider’s main Daly City location protested a new employee health plan they say severely limits their own options for medical care.
The two events are the latest in a long-running saga of financial challenges and labor issues that have beleaguered the community hospital and vital health service provider in northern and coastal San Mateo County.
County Supervisor Ray Mueller, who represents Moss Beach where the Coastside medical center is located, said he was “deeply troubled” by Seton’s “lack of public transparency” about the need to close the emergency room at all.
Mueller is concerned about the extended period that residents in the area will have to go without nearby emergency health services.
“You have people coming in who are suffering, who may be having a heart attack. They could have a whole myriad of acute ailments that require a visit to an emergency room,” Mueller said. “This is a situation where we’re really trying to provide for people’s immediate health and safety in a life-threatening event.”
Seton’s main hospital in Daly City is about 30 minutes from Half Moon Bay, while San Mateo Medical Center’s emergency room is about 20 minutes away. The hospitals serve as a safety net for the region’s low-income residents.
Tim Schulze, Seton’s associate chief operating officer, did not respond to requests for comment from this news organization. He said during a recent Midcoast Community Council meeting that the closing of the emergency room for renovations is necessary after the property sustained damage from a felled tree and mudslides during last year’s storms.
“These storms caused substantial damage to Seton Coastside,” Schulze said.
Renovations at the medical center began in October 2023.
But Mueller questioned the need to close the emergency room, noting that particular area of the hospital didn’t sustain damage.
“So there’s nothing that’s happened since the storms last year to April of this year that would have required the immediate shutdown of those emergency rooms from that storm event, correct?” Mueller said.
Schulze replied, “To my knowledge, there was no direct damage.”
AHMC Healthcare acquired Seton out of bankruptcy from Verity Health Systems, finalizing the purchase in 2020. Former Attorney General Xavier Becerra approved the sale, with the conditions that Seton’s Daly City and Coastside medical centers remain open for five and a half years and provide care for individuals earning below 250% of the federal poverty level, while also partially subsidizing care costs for other economically challenged patients.
Mueller also took issue with AHMC’s alleged lack of transparency and coordination with the county, which provided at least $10 million in grant funding to Seton to help continue operations.
While Schulze said during the community meeting that the closure was temporary, Mueller questioned the timing of the closure. Next year is the final year AHMC is obligated to run Seton.
Given the financial and management troubles of Seton’s hospital system, Coastside physician Dr. Suzan Goodman echoed these concerns.
“We very much hope that it will be reopened but some of us have had concerns and doubts about that intention,” Goodman said. “We’ve seen a very rapid fall in the satisfaction ratings at Seton… and the physicians in the whole hospital system are concerned about the the longer-term viability, and the end game for the owner AHMC, whether there is really a concerted effort, and they’re not going to cut and run.”
Mueller said he would be filing a resolution at the next board meeting while the county will send a notice to AHMC to try to compel them to explain the ER’s closure in greater detail.
Meanwhile at the main hospital in Daly City, over 400 workers recently went on a two-day strike to protest changes to their health benefits, which they say became severely limited at the beginning of 2024.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers said in a statement that workers who took a more affordable health plan would have to make do with “very few participating doctors, mostly based in San Francisco.”
According to the union, the health plan only has two participating hospital systems: John Muir Health in Contra Costa or Seton, “which doesn’t offer pediatric or prenatal care.”
Juliya Vinogradsky, a respiratory therapist from Marin County, has three children and has worked at the hospital for the past 17 years.
“They had promised us that UCSF Children’s Hospital would be included in the cheaper plan,” Vinogradsky said. “I selected that plan. However, it turned out that UCSF is not part of the plan as promised.”
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“At her four-month vaccination appointment is when we found out we were no longer covered,” she said. “Coverage does not cover us in the South Bay.”
Multiple calls to Schulze regarding issues at both medical centers went unanswered.
Daly City Mayor Juslyn Manalo said she is watching Seton’s labor issues closely, calling the workers the “backbone” of the community.
“Without them, the hospital is a shell,” she said. “They deserve health care for themselves and their families that isn’t a hardship to get to.”

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