EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Corbett to Ask AG Jerry Brown to Investigate Sutter's Practices

STATE SENATOR TELLS LARGE AUDIENCE IN SAN LEANDRO SHE WOULD EXPLORE USING SUBPOENA POWERS TO BRING SUTTER OFFICIALS TO TESTIFY......SOME DOCTORS CALL ON HEALTH DISTRICT AND BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO 'STEP UP TO THE PLATE'.....FORMER SLH CHIEF OF STAFF QUESTIONS SL CITY COUNCIL: 'THIS ISSUE ISN'T IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR FIVE OF SIX COUNCIL MEMBERS TO ATTEND?'.....MAYOR SANTOS AND ASSEMBLYWOMAN HAYASHI DUCK OUT OF MEETING DURING PUBLIC COMMENT SESSION
By Steven Tavares
The Citizen
State Sen. Ellen Corbett is taking the battle to keep San Leandro Hospital and its emergency room open higher up the political food chain.

Speaking at a town hall meeting Thursday night in San Leandro, Corbett said she will ask the state's attorney general to investigate claims Sutter Health has engaged in a continual pattern of misrepresentation involving various hospitals in the state.

"This is just not San Leandro," Corbett told another large crowd at the San Leandro Library, "This is an ongoing historic pattern."

The letter to Attorney Jerry Brown's office currently circulating around Bay Area legislators, according to Corbett, will charge Sutter with a host of indiscretions which are grounded in the current fight to keep Sutter from leasing the hospital to the Alameda County Medical Center and becoming an acute rehabilitation facility while closing the hospital's emergency room services to an estimated 27,000 patients a year.

Corbett will ask the attorney general's office to investigate the following:
  • Sutter-run hospital finances.
  • Practices of economic and medical redlining.
  • Abuse of non-profit status.
  • Misallocation of public assets
  • Execution of contracts in conflict of existing law
A spokesperson for Sutter Health could not be reached for comment.

Corbett said there is interest among various committee chairs to invite or possibly subpoena Sutter officials to answer legislators questions in Sacramento. The idea stems from a conversation with Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-Marin), who is himself is dealing with Sutter's planned extrication from Marin General Hospital and charges it funneled $88 million dollars from the facility. According to Corbett, the idea is being explored and is in the preliminary stages.

After tumultuous week when the Eden Township District Board of Directors voted Aug. 18 to block Sutter's purchase option for San Leandro Hospital, only to be one-upped the next day by Alameda County Medical Center's announcement of a lease agreement with Sutter to run the hospital as an acute rehabilitation center, Thursday's discussion may have laid the groundwork for a legal strategy to keep the community hospital open.

"We are trying to show to the attorney general that there is this pattern of abuse," said Corbett, "and if you have legislators saying, 'hey, this happened in my community and this happened in my community,' I think it will help them to understand that this is a big issue that has to be addressed by our chief law enforcement officer and I think he will investigate."

Dr. Miles Adler, who was once chief of staff for both San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, said Sutter only believes in the bottom line, ""We need to remember that Sutter's motto of community based and not-for-profit operations is bogus because as everybody has talked about today, Sutter is all about profit."

Adler then charged Sutter with choosing insured patients over those on assistance or non-paying. "What Sutter is trying to do is basically medically redlining this community. Government payers are not particularly lucrative. By eliminating San Leandro Hospital and taking the paying patients over to Eden this will enhance their revenue. This is what they are doing."

"Should a non-profit be doing this?" asked Corbett. "They have a tax break because they are suppose to be serving the people who are the most needy. That's why we are starting to ask people what is really happening?"

San Leandro Councilman Michael Gregory, who represents the district San Leandro Hospital resides, also found fault with Sutter's non-profit status. "I would question them being a non-profit corporation, but I would say everything they do is legal, but is it ethical?"

"This plan was set two years ago," said Gregory, "and [Sutter] has done a masterful job of taking power over the hospital away from the district. This case is a little more airtight than other situations, but this is not a real estate deal. This is about the community and it's about Sutter not playing fair in the sandbox."

Additions to this article have been made since its initial posting.

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