By Steven TavaresThe price Sutter Health could conceivable pay the Eden Township Healthcare District for San Leandro Hospital is zero, according to the Alameda County Health Services.
Acting Director of Alameda County Health Services (ACHS) Alex Briscoe says their legal counsel believes, according to the agreement signed by the district health care board and Sutter in 2008 the hospital has effectively been "paid" for.
According to the signed memorandum of understanding, the purchase price for San Leandro Hospital would be equal to the current net book price minus total cash losses incurred at the hospital and capital expenditures not included in the rent. "To keep the hospital open, the district in 2008 gave away quite a bit to Sutter," said Briscoe, "For all intents and purposes--legally-- the hospital is in the hands of Sutter."
Sutter's announcement Tuesday to exercise its option to purchase San Leandro Hospital came as no surprise to ACHS. Briscos says it has always been their belief Sutter had no desire to allow a competitor to operate San Leandro Hopsital less than six miles away from its planned $300 million reconstruction of Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, which broke ground earlier this month.
The announcement, nevertheless, was unexpected to many in the community who believed Sutter would soon transfer the option to buy the hospital to the Alameda County Medical Center. Sources say Sutter notified members of the Eden Township Healthcare Board of their intention to purchase in a letter Monday and the issue was discussed in a closed door session of the Alameda County Medical Center Board of Director Tuesday evening.
A spokesperson for Sutter says the letter asks the board to respond by Aug. 10. In a separate letter obtained by The Citizen, Sutter says escrow on the purchase is expected to close on or before Sept. 1. and concludes saying "We look forward to working with the District to consummate this purchase."
Advocates for saving San Leandro Hospital are already focusing their effort to block the purchase by Sutter. In addition to joining the lawsuit filed by the California Nurses Association that challenges the validity of the Eden Medical Center environment impact report, opponents could challenge the legitimacy of the 2008 agreement between the district and Sutter. According to Briscoe, legal counsel for ACHS says its success is unlikely. In addition, there is question as to whether Sutter violated the terms of the 2008 agreement which called for plans to develop the now-vacant fourth floor of San Leandro Hospital to acute care services. Briscoe says Sutter has to begin work or merely put forth a working time table.
In terms of the entire picture, little has changed in the scope of the controversial hospital situation. Stacey Wells, a spokesperson for Sutter, said "No final decision on the hospital's closure has been made. We are doing our due diligence to find the best solution."
"It remains unclear what the next step will be," said Briscoe, "The future remains in doubt, but you can surmise from Sutter's action that they do not plan to run the hospital as a private operation facility."
An aide for Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Alice Lai-Bitker believes all options are still on table at this point, "It appears that if ACMC is still talking to Sutter then a hybrid option still can be worked out," said Shawn Wilson. In additon, the purchase of the hospital by Sutter also brings the county's original plan to relocate acute care services from the seismically-deficient Fairmont Hospital to San Leandro back to the forefront, Said Briscoe, "We think it is in the best interest of the communities in the long run to have acute rehab at San Leandro Hospital."