The county’s two health care districts are donating a combined $6 million to local organizations caring for those infected and hoping to stem the spread of novel coronavirus, according to officials.

The Peninsula Health Care District announced Wednesday, March 25, a $3 million contribution to aid San Mateo County’s response to protect public health. And earlier this month, the Sequoia Healthcare District set aside the same amount to finance partner organizations fighting on the front lines against the pandemic.

County officials expressed their appreciation for the Peninsula Health Care District’s contribution, which is expected to backfill voids left from other funding sources.

“Their funding will be particularly effective because we know that the state and federal government will not provide funding to meet all our local needs,” said county Supervisor Dave Pine. “To have a local donation will fill gaps left behind.”

Larry Cappel, president of the Peninsula Health Care District board, said the contribution was necessary to fight an expected rise in need for care as the virus takes hold in San Mateo County.

“It has become quite clear this was going to hit San Mateo County and hit San Mateo County in a big way,” he said.

There are 165 confirmed cases and five deaths related to the disease in San Mateo County, according to the most recent figures published Wednesday, March 25. For perspective, there were 15 cases in San Mateo County with no fatalities reported Wednesday, March 11.

It is yet to be determined exactly what the contribution will pay toward, but Cappel said flexibility is a key focus of the initiative to assure the money can be allocated to address the most pressing needs.

Anecdotally, Cappel said medical professionals have said there is an inadequate supply of masks, gowns, gloves and other supplies. Looking ahead, he said there may eventually be a need for additional facilities to treat or monitor patients, but the crisis is not yet that dire.

Pine said a plan is still being developed for spending the contribution, but suggested the immediate focus will be assuring health care workers have the protective equipment needed to stay safe while providing care.

Supervisor Carole Groom also expressed her appreciation for the graciousness of the district’s donation which she considered very generous and community spirited.

“It will allow us to have more depth for sure,” said Groom, regarding the opportunities to preserve the community’s health and ramp up the measures available to medical professionals.

The Peninsula Health Care District was initially intended to operate the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, but that was taken over by Sutter Health, which constructed a new facility. Officials then pivoted to assuring district resources serve the health needs of residents in San Bruno, Millbrae, Burlingame, Hillsborough, San Mateo and Foster City.

For the Sequoia Healthcare District, CEO Pamela Kurtzman said officials agreed during a meeting Wednesday, March 18, to allocate $3 million to a variety of services combating the spread of coronavirus.

She said officials have yet to determine exactly how the money will be directed, but she expected those decisions will be made at the upcoming board meeting Wednesday, April 1.

“We are looking at ways to support our organizations at where they are,” she said.

Looking ahead, she said more money could be allocated as needs grow more pressing and response priorities evolve, she said.

The Sequoia Healthcare District board once oversaw Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, but that responsibility was eventually handed to the nonprofit now known as Dignity Health and, in 2007, it contributed some $75 million to construct a new facility while releasing its supervisory role by giving up seats on the hospital’s governing board. It now allocates its tax revenue toward health care related programs.

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(1) comment

Cindy Cornell

To call this a "donation" is inaccurate. This is taxpayer money - the Health Care Districts are not foundations. They DIRECTED the money. I don't know about Sequoia, but the Peninsula Health Care District needs to direct a lot more of the reserves to this problem.

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