Public Comment

Commentary: Children’s Hospital Belongs to Us All

By Frank Tiedemann
Tuesday February 05, 2008

For 95 years, Children’s Hospital has cared for the children and families of this community. From day one, in 1912, our mission has been to serve any child, no matter the family’s ability to pay. We have never wavered from that mission. Over the years we have cared for hundreds of thousands of children. 

Children’s Hospital is faced with the greatest challenge of its history. We must build a new hospital by 2013 to meet the state’s earthquake safety mandate or face losing our license. We are located one mile from the Hayward fault. 

We also must rebuild to keep pace with a growing population in our region and the healthcare needs of children. There is an epidemic of chronic pediatric illnesses—asthma, diabetes, obesity, cancer—that is taxing the resources of our 61 services, 31 subspecialties and our facility. We’ve run out of room and lease a 20-bed unit at nearby Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to meet the needs of Alameda County’s kids. 

To help finance the rebuilding project, estimated to cost $700 million, Children’s is asking Alameda County voters to support Measure A, a $2-a-month parcel tax. 

Children’s is a not-for-profit hospital created for a public good. Sixty-seven percent of our patients receive their healthcare coverage through MediCal and other government programs such as Healthy Families, programs that pay far less than private insurers. Do these less-privileged kids deserve the same care as kids with private insurance? We believe they do. 

Sixty-six percent of Children’s patients come from Alameda County. Measure A will provide about 40 percent ($300 million) of the building’s cost. 

Children’s Hospital fills a vital role as the only pediatric hospital in Alameda county. We have the county’s only Level 1 pediatric trauma center. Fifty-three-thousand kids passed through our Emergency Room last year. In 2007, we had more than 10,000 inpatient stays and more than 220,000 outpatient visits. 

In placing our measure on the ballot, we followed the constitutional process and asked county voters to sign our petitions. More than 61,000 did, in about half the time we anticipated it would take. When the Board of Supervisors voiced concerns about some of the details of the measure, we agreed to modify the language and they voted unanimously to put Measure A on the ballot. 

Neighbors are concerned about rebuilding the hospital in their neighborhood. Children’s has a 95-year history in this location. We were founded on this very spot in 1912. Beyond the hospital we have infrastructure, a modern outpatient center, a parking garage, a utility plant, and a world-renowned research center already here. It’s simply a matter of efficiency of resources for us to stay in our present location. We did look elsewhere, but it would have been far more expensive to move our current services and build a new hospital. 

Children’s Hospital belongs to us all. To build a new hospital will take a partnership between the public and private sectors. Our foundation is doing its share by raising funds from private donors and foundations. With these resources, plus Measure A and the continued support of our community, we will keep world-class pediatric healthcare accessible and available to all kids in our county for many decades to come.  

Please vote yes on Measure A. 


Frank Tiedemann is president and CEO of Children’s Hospital and Research Center, Oakland.