Zuckerberg, wife give $75 million to S.F. hospital

Authored by Victoria Colliver is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @vcolliver

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, are donating $75 million to San Francisco General Hospital to help fund critical equipment and technology for the new public hospital, which is scheduled to open at the end of the year.

The donation to the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising arm, is expected to be announced Friday. It is the largest single gift to the hospital since the foundation’s creation in 1994, and hospital officials believe it is the largest single private gift from individuals to a public hospital in the nation.

“This precedent-setting grant is a key piece necessary to the completion and opening of the new building in December,” said Amanda Heier, the foundation’s chief executive officer. The grant is large enough to fund some of the hospital’s future needs as well, she said.

With that in mind, the city has started the process of adding the couple’s name to the hospital, making it the Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

“It’s incredibly gracious they have recognized the importance of this hospital to the entire city,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “They have made sure, in the future, there will be enough money to maintain and modernize it. They want a public hospital as important as this to be at world-class standards every year.”

Career in medicine

Sue Currin, San Francisco General’s chief executive officer, said the gift has special meaning given that Chan, a pediatric resident at UCSF, has trained alongside doctors at the public safety-net hospital. Chan “knows the patient population and the mission of San Francisco General,” she said.

Located in the Mission District — near a home the Zuckerbergs started renovating in 2013 — San Francisco General is the city’s only trauma center and serves as a health care safety net for the city’s most vulnerable patients.

The current structure, built in the early 1970s alongside buildings dating back to 1915, is aging and does not meet current seismic standards. The new hospital is being built on the existing 23-acre site and is primarily financed with a voter-approved $887.4 million bond measure.

The bond measure covers only the cost of construction, not the cost of the advanced medical technology, equipment and furnishings that will go inside the hospital. For the past few years, the hospital has been raising funds to help pay for those expenses.

Currin said the Zuckerbergs’ donation is a huge boost toward that effort. The donation will help keep San Francisco General, which serves about 100,000 patients a year, in step with private, better-funded medical centers in the city, she said.

“There will be no difference between what patients have available to them as far as equipment, furnishings and all of that at San Francisco General as compared to the other hospitals being built in San Francisco,” Currin said.

San Francisco General’s new nine-story, 283-bed hospital will include an emergency room that is double the size of the existing one, two additional trauma rooms and three more operating rooms. In addition to helping to outfit the new center, the Zuckerberg-Chan donation is expected to be used to help pay for converting the existing hospital into an ambulatory care center, which will also have skilled nursing beds.

While some tech titans have taken heat for not being as generous as critics would like, the health sector has been a beneficiary of benevolence from the Zuckerbergs and other philanthropists in the tech industry.

Tech giving

Last fall, Zuckerberg, who has an estimated worth of $33.3 billion, gave $25 million to the Centers for Disease Foundation to help fight Ebola. Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff’s name was added to UCSF’s children’s hospitals after donating $200 million, and venture capitalist Ron Conway’s name was added to UCSF’s Gateway Medical Center after his $40 million contribution. Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research was created from the venture capitalist’s $24 million gift in December.

Neither Zuckerberg nor Chan would comment on the donation Thursday, but in a statement Chan said her training has taught her “the vital health care and trauma services this hospital provides to anyone who lives, works or travels through San Francisco.”

“Day in and day out, I witness the compassion and dedication of my colleagues as they work tirelessly to deliver the best available care to all of our patients,” Chan said. “Mark and I are proud to support such an important public hospital.”

Larry Baer, San Francisco Giants president and CEO who served with his wife, Pam, to co-chair the hospital’s campaign committee to raise money for the rebuild, said he hopes the Zuckerbergs’ generosity inspires additional support for the hospital, as well as for other public hospitals.

“There’s only one level-one trauma center in San Francisco,” Baer said. “If you cross the street, whether you’re a wealthy individual or somebody down and out in luck, and something happens to you and you’re in deep trouble, you go to San Francisco General. It’s the great equalizer.”