Unlike some publications around town, SFist mostly still calls the hospital SF General, because Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital — or, technically, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center — is just an awkward mouthful. But the SF Board of Supervisors was expected to pass a non-binding resolution Tuesday to "condemn" the renaming of the hospital five years after the renaming took place.
Back in July we heard that at least two supervisors, Gordon Mar and Matt Haney, were agitating to have the Zuckerberg-Chans removed from the public hospital's name, and talk of this goes back several years. It's, of course, been a bad few years in the press for Facebook and Zuckerberg. And while people might have winced a little at the renaming of the hospital back in 2015 — when the mega-billionaire couple donated $75 million to the hospital while Chan was still a pediatric resident there — now there's a lot more abject disgust that Zuckerberg's name has to be mentioned every time we refer to the city's largest trauma center.
As one hospital employee, Julie French, tells the Associated Press in an email, "We are not a ballpark or a stadium to be bought and sold for commercial purposes. We are a public hospital of and for the people of the city and county of San Francisco. We deserve to have that dignity preserved."
Mayor London Breed, who was president of the Board of Supervisors when the renaming occurred in recognition of the donation, helped approve the name change with the Board at the time, and Mayor Ed Lee praised the whole thing.
A voter-approved initiative in 2008 provided bond funds for a new, nine-story, 283-bed hospital adjacent to the existing SF General, and a subsequent fundraising drive by the hospital's foundation sought to add $135 million for equipment and the re-outfitting of the old hospital into an ambulatory care center. The 2015 donation from Chan and Zuckerberg largely helped reach that goal, and Dr. Chan said at the time, "Through my training at The General, I know firsthand the vital health care and trauma services this hospital provides to anyone who lives, works or travels through San Francisco... Mark and I are proud to support such an important public hospital."
As the AP reports, Supervisor Mar now acknowledges that the Board does not have the power to strip Zuckerberg's name from the hospital. So he's co-sponsoring a non-binding resolution that the Board will vote on Tuesday to formally "condemn" the naming and "send a message" about future efforts like this that "San Francisco is not for sale."
"There’s been growing public outrage that this important public health institution was named and the naming rights were sold to the highest bidder and to somebody as controversial as Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook," Mar said in a statement.
Dr. Susan Ehrlich, the chief executive at the hospital, issued a counter statement saying, "Naming is an important convention in philanthropy that encourages additional donors, and our hospital relies on the support of the community, the City and County of San Francisco, and generous private philanthropy," adding that the donation by Zuckerberg and Chan helped equip the hospital with state-of-the-art technology that benefits everyone.
"We are proud that the hospital now bears their names and disappointed in attempts to condemn it – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when the impact of their gift has never been greater," she said.
On Tuesday, SF General became the first hospital in San Francisco to begin administering the Pfizer COVID vaccine to its employees.
Photo courtesy of the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center