SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- A group of health workers rallied Thursday at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital to protest Mayor London Breed's decision to close the hospital's Assisted Residential Facility (ARF) for long-term mental health patients.
The protesters holding signs that read "A San Francisco For All" and "Save the ARF" chanted slogans urging the city's Department of Health to roll back a proposal to cut the number of beds for long-term mental health patients at the facility and keep the ARF's permanent operation.
San Francisco is planning to close dozens of permanent, residential treatment beds at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital to expand the capacity of a short-term mental health rehabilitation program, which would lead to the loss of about 41 beds at the facility.
On Monday, patients of the ARF, which is located on the first floor of the hospital's Behavioral Health Center, were told to relocate within 60 days to a temporary shelter where the protesters said they would not receive the same level of care.
Theresa Rutherford, vice president of the San Francisco chapter (Local 1021) of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an organization representing more than 60,000 public service workers in Northern California, said the city is closing the ARF that houses some of the most ill patients.
"They are mentally ill. They need a lot of support and they need continuity of care," Rutherford told Xinhua. "We are advocating that this facility be kept open to take care of those persons who have lived there for upwards of 15 years."
Those mental health patients will never live independently and could end up in homelessness if they are evicted from the unit, she added.
Some patients who will be forced to move out of the ARF facility said they were worried about their wellbeing if the facility is closed.
"We have an issue already in San Francisco with homeless people on the street. A lot of them already have mental issues. This facility helps address that," said Gus Vallejo, president of Local 21 or San Francisco chapter of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents public sector professional and technical workers in the Bay Area.
"I'm here to stand in solidarity with our members from Local 1021 and Local 21 to prevent it from being closed," Vallejo told Xinhua.
He said they wanted the government to hold a public hearing on the fate of the ARF instead of making plans in secret.
"We also want transparency. We want them to stop this. We want them to follow the government codes and have the hearing," Vallejo said.