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San Francisco General Hospital

San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center
San Francisco Department of Health
Location 1001 Potrero Ave
San Francisco, California 94110, United States
Care system Template:Infobox hospital/care system
Hospital type Teaching
Affiliated university University of California, San Francisco
Emergency department Level I trauma center
Beds 403 General Acute Care, 106 Acute Psychiatric, 59 Skilled Nursing Mental Health, 30 Skilled Nursing Med/Surg
Founded 1850
Lists Template:Infobox hospital/lists

San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) is the main public hospital in San Francisco, California, and the only Level I Trauma Center for 1.5 million residents of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County.[1] The hospital serves poor, elderly people, uninsured working families, and immigrants. About 80 percent of its patient population either receives publicly funded health insurance (Medicare or Medi-Cal) or is uninsured. SFGH also cares for the homeless, who make up about 8 percent of its patients.[2] It is the largest acute inpatient and rehabilitation hospital for psychiatric patients in the City. Additionally, it is the only acute hospital in San Francisco that provides twenty-four hour psychiatric emergency services and operates the only Trauma Center (Level 1) in San Francisco.

In addition to the approximately 3,500 San Francisco municipal employees, the University of California at San Francisco provides approximately 1,500 employees (including Physicians, nurses and ancillary personnel). The hospital, especially its Ward 86,[3] was instrumental in treating and identifying early cases of AIDS. The original brick main building was replaced with a concrete one with construction started in 1971;[4] four remaining 1915 five-story edifices are among the tallest brick buildings in the city. The hospital is located at 1001 Potrero Avenue between the Mission District and Potrero Hill; U.S. Route 101 rounds its east side at “Hospital Curve.”

A new San Francisco General Hospital acute care building is currently under construction on the site and is planned to be opened in 2015. It will be the only hospital in San Francisco built with a base-isolated foundation, the latest technology for protecting buildings during seismic activity. Notable improvements include expanding the capacity of emergency department and increasing the number of beds as well as increasing the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and combining the previously separate surgical and medical units into one ICU.


  • 1850 San Francisco Granted a city Charter and creates a Board of Health; cholera strikes, temporary hospital set up.
  • 1857 City and County opens it first permanent hospital in the former North Beach schoolhouse at Stockton and Francisco streets.
  • 1864 "In the fall of 1864, Dr. Hugh Toland opened his new medical school, which in 1872 would become the University of California. The Medical School building was located on Stockton Street near Chestnut adjacent to the City and County Hospital...In 1865, Toland was granted permission to use the hospital for clinical instruction." (pg37[6]))
  • 1872 "On August 28, 1872, the New City-County Hospital on Potrero Street was was described as a two-story, wooden frame building with a brick foundation..."(pg43[7]))
  • 1873 Agreement allows City and County Hospital to serve as UC and Stanford medical schools' clinical facility.
  • 1906 "The Earthquake and Great Fire devastate the City in April 18, 1906... the Hospital with its wood frame structure anchored on the firm rock of Potrero Hill survived more or less intact, with minimal injury to inmates or staff." (pg60[8])
  • 1907 Long needed children's ward and contagious pavilion open.
  • 1908 Second plague epidemic strikes; hospital pronounced unfit for patient care when plague infested rats and flees are found there; wooden buildings burned to the ground by city order and patients moved to the old Jockey Club Racetrack in the Ingleside district, where box stalls and grandstands are converted into a temporary hospital; "Mission Emergency" Hospital, one of the city owned network, operates out of a shack on the Potrero Ave site.
  • 1915 New San Francisco General Hospital, landscaped, red brick, Italian Renaissance style complex, dedicated during the City's celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal; motorized ambulances replace the horse-drawn vans.
  • 1924 Psychiatric ward opens to treat acutely ill patients and reduce state hospital admissions.
  • 1959 "In May 1959 in the first contract with the University of California was signed and amounted to 1% of the total hospital budget or $154,000...the value of teaching programs to a public hospital was emphasized by the university in their negotiations with the city..." (pg90[9])
  • 1963 "...a modern medical library funded primarily by UC was opened on Ward 31. It was named the Briggs-Barnett library after two former chiefs of medicine on the UC and Stanford service." (pg93[10])
  • 1965 "The pressing need for more psychiatric beds, the general overcrowding, and the problems of maintenance and staffing all combined to emphasize the inadequacy of the 50-year-old hospital...a $33.7 million bond issue...passed overwhelmingly with the highest support of any bond since the since the earthquake of 1906." (pg93[11])
  • 1971 Groundbreaking for the new hospital.
  • 1972 Trauma Center opens at Mission Emergency, with a grant from NIH.
  • 1973 Outpatient department, Stroke Research Center, coronary and respiratory ICUs, Family Practice residency starts.
  • 1976 New SFGH Medical Center opens after three years of planning by community advisory boards.
  • 1979 Specially equipped Burn Unit, San Francisco's second, becomes part of the Trauma Center; Gladstone Foundation Cardiovascular Laboratories open.
  • 1980 Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center established to study basic neuroscience and the effects of alcohol on the brain.
  • 1983 UCSF clinicians and researchers develop the country's first outpatient AIDS clinic and inpatient ward at SFGH and mount an enormous multidisciplinary effort to fight off the disease.
  • 1991 Trauma Center designated the only Level I Trauma Center in San Francisco providing around the clock medical and psychiatric emergency services.
  • 1993 SFGH continues to be recognized as the premier hospital for AIDS care in the United States. The Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology opens at SFGH, second largest basic research institute in the US. In partnership with UCSF, conducts research on new drugs and treatment for HIV/AIDS, along with clinical trials, prevention, outreach, and professional education programs.
  • 2004 Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center open to provide state-of-the-art imaging for breast cancer detection, more than doubling screening capacity and expanding outreach at SFGH.
  • 2008 San Francisco passes a $888 million bond to build a new hospital at SFGH between the historic 1915 red brick buildings. The bond received 84% approval.
  • 2015 The new hospital is slated to be complete.[12]

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera & SFGH [13]

San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center is proud to house paintings by two famous artists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Rivera’s “La Tortillera,” painted in 1926, and Kahlo’s 1931 “Portrait of Dr. Leo Eloesser,” were both given to the University of California San Francisco for display at the SFGH.

The paintings were donated to UCSF with the stipulation that they be hung at the San Francisco General Hospital where their original owner, the late thoracic surgeon Leo Eloesser, MD, served for 36 years.

Dr. Leo Eloesser

Born in San Francisco, Leo Eloesser (1881-1976) was a pioneering thoracic surgeon and innovator in the provision of rural and wartime health care.

After receiving his Medical Doctorate from the University of Heidelberg in 1907, Dr. Eloesser returned to San Francisco in 1910, did a clinical internship at SFGH, and joined the faculty of the Stanford Medical School in 1912, where he eventually became the Chief of the Thoracic Service of the Stanford University Division at San Francisco City and County Hospital.

After World War One (in 1918-19), Dr. Eloesser served as Chief of Amputation and Orthopaedic Services at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. He was known for his work among the poor and indigent, and, in 1935-36, he established the first Thoracic Surgery clinic in Russia. At the age of 56, working as a medic in the Spanish Civil War, he ran his own Mobile Surgical Hospital.

Following his retirement in 1945, Dr. Eloesser worked for the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Administration (UNRRA) and UNICEF, in various capacities related to the development of rural health care in China, including a term as director of the Bethune International Peace Hospital and Medical School in Hsi Ching (Yenan Province).

During his last years, in Tacamburo, Michoacan, Mexico, he continued his efforts to develop solutions to rural medical problems by using indigenous resources to combat the high incidence of tuberculosis and infant death, including support of teaching and surgical activities at the Sanitario de Huipulco, al Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Respiratorias, and the establishment of a curriculum to train rural midwives.

Dr. Eloesser and the Riveras

Dr. Eloesser first met Diego Rivera in 1926 and later came to know Frida Kahlo, who looked to him for medical advice and friendship for the rest of her life. Both Rivera and Kahlo lived and worked in San Francisco in 1930-31, and during their stay, Dr. Eloesser treated her for chronic medical problems she suffered as a result of an earlier bus accident that occurred in Mexico when she was a young woman.

As a token of their friendship, and to repay him for his service, Kahlo painted a portrait of Dr. Eloesser in 1931 at his home on Leavenworth Street. Executed in oil on masonite, it shows him standing beside a model sailing ship named “Los Tres Amigos.” A small Rivera drawing hangs in the background. Rivera later gave Dr. Eloesser, “La Tortillera,” an oil on canvas depicting a woman making tortillas. The three remained close friends in the years that followed. Kahlo wrote regularly to Dr. Eloesser, requesting his advice in letters addressed to her dear “doctorcito.”

Some years later, Dr. Eloesser presented Kahlo's portrait to a good friend, Carlton Mathewson, MD, UCSF clinical professor emeritus of surgery, who in 1968 donated it to UCSF with the provision that it permanently remain hanging at SFGH. In 1975 Dr. Eloesser gave “La Tortillera” to the University with the same stipulation.


The paintings often go on tour. The portrait of Dr. Eloesser has been to Mexico, Europe and across the US in recent years with celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Frida Kahlo's birth. During construction on the new hospital at SFGH both paintings are hanging at the SFMOMA.


External links

  • SFGH site at SF Dep't of Public Health
  • UCSF SFGH site
  • SFGH campus maps
  • Center for Vulnerable Populations
  • This hospital in the CA Healthcare Atlas A project by OSHPD
  • Brain and Spinal Injury Center
  • Orthopaedic Trauma Institute

See also

Coordinates: 37°45′20″N 122°24′18″W / 37.75556°N 122.40500°W / 37.75556; -122.40500

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