Outrage Grows Over Therapy Pool Closure; Community Pressure Increases on Sutter Health

South San Francisco, CA  June 15, 2022 Submitted by warmwaterwellness.org.

Mickelson therapy pool that has benefited thousands, now sits

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.


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Coach Teena
Coach Teena
1 year ago

Wow! As a Coach for athletes with disabilities and an aquatics fitness coach for people with impairments, I am stunned that this could be happening in the Bay Area. Especially with a large medical entity such as Sutter Health, who by the way has always reimbursed several of my athletes through their health and wellness benefits to cover the costs of my athletes’ swim training as recommended by their physicians.

We have used the Timpany center in San Jose, which is a therapeutic pool for people with impairments.

I wonder if the Sutter Health Officials denying any form of communication to resolve this issue or discussion of the closure of the Mickelson Pool even reside in California? There lies the problem because people here know what our population with impairments and disabilities needs for the management of their health and those not in California have no clue. If they ARE in California, please do not call yourself a ‘Californian’ but call yourself ‘subhuman’ because you have zero compassion to even open your mouths for a discussion or an explanation.

People wonder why folks get upset? because of the lack of transparency. Makes you wonder also what they are hiding or running from not meeting with city and state officials. Clearly, an investigation is needed and warranted for this type of shut-mouth behavior. Kudos to the community for standing up to this mess.

S. F. Hatfield
S. F. Hatfield
1 year ago

I live in Half Moon Bay and for years was able to access the Mickelson Pool to exercised and gently flex my spine which has stenosis. I finally had surgery and then used the pool to rehabilitate. My problems seemed so minor when I saw users who could barely walk enter the pool and smile with relief. I urge Sutter to meet the therapeutic needs of the Bay area by reopening the pool.

cynthia robbins-roth
cynthia robbins-roth
1 year ago

Thanks for writing about this important issue. I am one of the many folks who benefited from access to the Mickelson Pool many times over the past decade. When my spinal arthritis first got very painful, it was physical therapy and the therapy pool that allowed me to recover and continue working.

The therapy pool was crucial in allowing me to stay as fit and mobile as possible prior to a knee replacement and a shoulder replacement, and played a key role in my shoulder’s post-surgery recovery.

Sadly, i was not able to access the therapy pool for my post-knee replacement recovery because because Sutter choose to close the therapy pool.

This past year, my other knee fell apart (no cartilage left), but I was stuck once again without access to the healing warm water and the ramp that allowed easy pool access and exit. I also miss the well-designed locker room with its truly accessible lockers, benches, showers and toilets.

Sutter has cut around 22 other programs in our county, many affecting our aging and disabled community members of all ages. Given the county’s proclaimed focus on better serving its aging population, Sutter seems to be making corporate decisions with no regard for the communities it supposedly serves.

I appreciate the supportive responses of our local communities and the politicians who represent us, including ways to work around Sutter’s corporate decisions. I also look forward to them imposing real consequences on Sutter.

Karen M
Karen M
1 year ago

Shame on Sutter! Thank you to everyone who is fighting so hard to reopen this gem of a pool.