Following backlash from the community, Sutter Health in San Mateo is reopening a warm therapy pool two years ahead of schedule.
In 2020, Sutter announced that it was permanently closing the therapy pool located at the Mickelson Arthritis and Rehabilitation Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mickelson therapy pool was historically used for short-term physician-prescribed physical therapy. It was also available for "open access" for self-directed therapy, a service that was open to community members with a doctor's release for a monthly fee, according to a joint letter from state and local elected officials to Sutter Health CEO Warner Thomas in May.
Among the letter's signatories was San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, who has led the effort to reopen the pool since its closure. In February 2020, Sutter cut the open-access hours for community use.
According to the letter, the pool's closure has had "devastating health effects on the elderly, chronically ill disabled and other vulnerable populations that for years depended upon the Mickelson pool to maintain their health, well-being and mobility."
Sutter anticipates that the pool will be ready for patients again in summer 2024, pending no unforeseen delays, according to a statement released Wednesday. They are currently in the process of applying for permits to start doing the necessary work needed to reopen the pool.
Advocates from the nonprofit Warm Water Wellness said they had concerns about the extent to which the hospital plans to reopen the pool.
"We are delighted that Sutter has shortened the timeline for reopening the Mickelson therapy pool to early summer 2024," said Warm Water Wellness. "However, we are concerned that Sutter has not yet confirmed that the pool will be utilized for both physician-prescribed physical therapy and 'open access' self-directed therapy available to all community members as it was prior to the pandemic closure."
Sutter said they are currently working on operational details and will continue to post updates on the details of the pool's reopening here.
"We recognize that our patients and the community are eager to learn more specifics," said Sutter Health spokesperson Angeline Sheets. "We appreciate the community's patience and understanding as we strive to deliver comprehensive and accurate information to all those who are interested in utilizing the pool's services."