South San Francisco, CA June 15, 2022 Submitted by warmwaterwellness.org.
On Monday, June 6, the Burlingame City Council became the latest governmental agency to unanimously approve a resolution calling for the Mickelson therapy pool’s reopening. They join the cities of Millbrae and San Mateo in passing resolutions that Sutter Health reopen the Mickelson facility. In addition, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the Sequoia Healthcare District have passed resolutions, and other Peninsula cities are considering resolutions. The San Mateo Senior Citizens Commission, Half Moon Bay’s mayor and many physicians have penned letters of support.
To date, Sutter remains inflexible.
And the community is not giving up. “We’re so grateful for all of the support we have received to date. The therapy pool is still functional and desperately needed,” says Lindsay Raike, CEO of Warm Water Wellness Inc.
The Mickelson Therapy Pool on El Camino Real in San Mateo, a fully accessible facility that served the community for decades—with its 92-degree healing warm waters and a ramp for wheelchair-bound users—has been desolate for over two years, and continues to remain empty and unused. After shutting down the pool during the onset of the pandemic, Sutter Health permanently closed the facility in March 2021–over a year ago. The closure has led to rapidly deteriorating physical and mental health for the most vulnerable members of the community.
The Peninsula Health Care District has generously offered to take over the facility and fund its reopening and management. In the face of official efforts and the heartfelt pleas of individual patients, family members and physicians, Sutter has declined all offers.
In June of 2021, an online petition calling for the reopening of the therapy pool was started by Lindsay Raike, a former pool user. Since then, with nearly 5,000 signatures gathered, Raike and an advocacy team formed Warm Water Wellness Inc, a non-profit organization created to lobby for Mickelson’s reopening. “All this time without access to exercise and rehabilitation means that people are suffering tremendously. Many of the former Mickelson therapy pool patrons are mobility-impaired and unable to exercise in any other way,” says Raike. The pool population also included individuals recovering from heart surgeries, strokes or joint replacements, patients with balance issues, back problems, severe arthritis, or any number of conditions that made exercising on land difficult.
The closure has resulted in strong condemnation by state and local representatives.
“Sutter’s actions are unconscionable,” stated Assemblymember Kevin Mullin when asked about the situation at a recent “Coffee with Kevin” event. He indicated that he has contacted the state’s Attorney General regarding a possible investigation.
In sponsoring the county’s resolution, Supervisors David Canepa and Carole Groom have also made appeals to Sutter. “The community has come together [in trying] to keep this community treasure and asset open,” said Canepa.
Ann Schneider, former Mayor of Millbrae, said, “As an injured worker and a former pool manager, I know first-hand how important warm water therapy is. Sutter Health Mills Peninsula is my hospital and I am so ashamed… Such greed.”
The community is not giving up on this facility built entirely with donations from local individuals and businesses over 25 years ago.
“Sutter Health has a moral obligation here,” says Raike. “They should either reopen the therapy pool or reimburse the amount originally donated — $7.2 million in today’s money — to build a new facility. It is shameful that disabled individuals are now put in a position of expending their limited energy in fighting for a therapy pool rather than healing in one.”
Warm Water Wellness Inc is a group of former therapy pool users and supporters who advocate for the reopening of the Mickelson therapy pool and the construction of additional therapy pools on the Peninsula. For more information, to sign their petition or make a donation, please visit their website at warmwaterwellness.org.