Heather Knight and Cecilia M. Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 2007
The number of patients with gunshot wounds admitted to San Francisco General Hospital’s trauma center has more than doubled over the past five yearsa sign of what the hospital’s chief of medicine calls a genocide on the city’s streets.
In 2003, 110 gunshot victims were admitted to the hospital. Last year, that figure spiked to 228.
Dr. Andre Campbell, testifying before a Board of Supervisors committee meeting Monday, said gun violence has become an epidemic among the city’s African American boys and young men.
“The rising tide of violence is staggering,” he said, adding that while African Americans make up 6.5 percent of the city’s residents, they comprise at least 70 percent of gunshot victims. “I characterize that as a genocide.”
The hospital’s ability to save more gunshot victims means more of them are left with spinal cord injuries or other debilitating health problems, he said. In 2003, five gunshot victims treated at San Francisco General were left with spinal cord injuries. Last year, that figure rose to 13.
“The cost of spinal cord injuries is staggering to our patients,” Campbell said. “There is a physical, emotional and spiritual cost that cannot be measured in a dollar amount for these patients and their families.”
It also means a tremendously burdensome financial weight on the victims’ families, as well as on the city itself. Campbell cited a study from the University of Alabama’s Spinal Cord Injury Center that found that care for a quadriplegic person costs about $2.9 million over the course of a lifetime.
During the past four years, the recovery center, which offers a variety of services to victims of violent crimes, has treated 192 gunshot victims, Boccellari said.
Eighty-three percent were men, and 95 percent were minorities.
One-third of the victims lived in the violence-plagued Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, 25 percent were from the Mission District and Potrero Hill, and 15 percent were from the Western Addition, she said.
A key problem highlighted in the committee meeting was that many gunshot victims come from dangerous, decrepit public housing developments that are isolated from the rest of the city.
“They’re coming back into the kind of housing they shouldn’t be living in in the first place,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.