Community calls are mounting for Sutter Health to reopen the Mack E. Mickelson therapeutic pool at the Mills Health Center in San Mateo, which supporters say is an invaluable resource for those needing rehabilitative exercises.
In June last year, Sutter Health announced the permanent closure of the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center aquatic program, according to County officials. The therapy pool had previously been closed in March 2020 due to pandemic restrictions. In Octoober, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center CEO Janet Wagner said reasons for the closure included the pandemic and “the indoor facility’s lack of ventilation and dehumidifiers that would cost money to renovate,” according to the San Mateo Daily Journal.
The decision has drawn significant opposition. A Change.org petition calling for the pool’s reopening has drawn over 4,400 signatures. On Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution proposed by Supervisors David Canepa and Carole Groom calling upon Sutter Health to reopen the pool for community use with the same open access hours that were in place prior to January 2020.
“Sutter Health, its subsidiaries and affiliated entities receive significant financial benefits from their operations in San Mateo County” and are aware that “warm water therapy pools in the region are able to operate profitably and safely, including under COVID-19 protocols,” the County resolution states.
On Thursday, Sequoia Healthcare District Director Kim Griffin, RN, sent a letter to Mickelson pool supporters calling the pool’s closure “a loss that strikes at the heart of our community’s healthcare promise.” She said the District’s Board of Directors had made “direct appeals to the pool’s owner not to deprive those suffering from art arthritis, debilitating heath conditions, and painful co-morbidities of this vital resource.”
“Unfortunately, we, the pool-users, and our community were unsuccessful,” Griffin said.
While Griffin says the financial burden and liability concerns over the aging pool are real, she noted a lack of a “well-developed plan for the care of those who use the pool for their life-giving needs.”
“This illustrates the challenge our community faces in providing integrated solutions for our preventative healthcare needs,” Griffin said, adding that the District promises to “work with the pool users, healthcare systems, elected leaders and our community to address” how to fill gaps in preventative care.
The therapy pool is one of its kind in San Mateo County, according to the Board’s resolution. It was constructed a quarter of a century ago supported by charitable contributions from residents of San Mateo County “to serve as a centerpiece of an arthritis center created by Mills Peninsula,” the County said.
The County Board’s resolution also cited “an apparent and growing need for the services provided by the Mickelson Therapy Pool,” due to the County’s rapidly rising number of elderly residents “who are highly likely to suffer from health issues requiring a warm water therapy pool.”