Thursday, August 20, 2009

Questioning a Eden Board Member's Mental Fitness

The five members of the Eden Township Board of Directors sat around a small conference table Tuesday night. The CEO of the District Dev Mahadevan joined the group along with a lawyer from Sutter. About 50 dedicated supporters for saving San Leandro Hospital crowded into the room. The scene was intimate those inside. For others, the sounds of muffled voices struggled to reach the adjoining reception area.

When the discussion of lost minutes was raised, the board spent nearly 15 minutes both learning of the hastily reconstructed two-year-old minutes and devising a path to proceed. Member Dr. Vin Sawhney proposed the board take no action until a subsequent meeting, while another member Carole Rodgers felt she could not approve an entirely different board's minutes. The discussion, while not heated, went back and forth until the motion was put to a vote. All said "aye" except one member. The members stopped for a moment, realizing the 86-year-old member, Dr. Harry S. Dvorsky, did not vote. "How do you vote?" said the president of the board Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar.

"I didn't hear a motion," said Dvorsky, a retired thoracic surgeon who practiced at San Leandro Hospital.

"Ok, Harry," said Sawhney as he calmly gave Dvorsky the short version, "There are minutes here from 2007 that we are being asked to take an action to approve or not approve." Dvorsky nodded his approval and the meeting continued, but some with knowledge of the board's inner workings have quietly voiced concern over the mental health of the longest-serving board member.

"It's been on the minds of all the board members," said a person who declined to have their name mentioned because of their relationship with the board.

Dvorsky's capacity to perform his duties comes at a time when the fate of San Leandro Hospital hangs in the balance. In addition, the board has developed a split between those who tend to favor keeping the hospital and emergency room functioning (Sawhney and Rodgers) and those who have consistently voted with Sutter (Dr. Walter Kran and Ratnesar). It is conceivable that Dvorsky could be the wildcard in any future vote.

During Tuesday's meeting, Dvorsky, who rarely speaks during meetings, appeared detached and agitated, frequently blurting out sentences. When a doctor representing physicians read a statement to the board, Dvorsky harshly said, ""What the hell are you trying to say?"

On another occasion when state Sen. Ellen Corbett addressed the group he interrupted her saying, "You're going to have to speak louder." Corbett, who stood only a few feet away from Dvorsky, smiled and proceeded to speak louder.

The apparent inability to function within the board has become the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the corner, yet despite the concern no action has been made to remove Dvorsky. Another official, who because of the sensitivity of the subject declined to be named, feared for Dvorsky safety after the meeting. When they witnessed him driving himself home they said, "He seemed a little bit out of it tonight."

One source described a first-hand account of a meeting about six months ago when Dvorsky turned to another board member and quizzically asked, "They're going to close San Leandro Hospital?"

In the meantime, the competence of Dvorsky is treated with a knowing smile and a shrug. As the meeting concluded, Dvorsky finally spoke as the crowd stood and a quiet commotion took over the room. "Thank you all for coming!" he said.


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