By Steven Tavares
The CitizenIn late 2007, Sutter Health signed a deal with the Eden Township Healthcare District which, barring the continued collapse of San Leandro Hospital's finances, would keep the facility open past 2010. Some, though, continue to charge Sutter with accounting shenanigans hastening the hospital's demise.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the health district and Sutter implied the hospital's future was pinned to hopes it could turnaround losses Sutter says amounted to between $300,000-$500,000-a-month. Many doctors and nurses and community leaders, though, assert Sutter applied accounting gimmicks and stymied the hospital's ability to succeed, in effect, stacking the deck against the city's lone medical facility.
"They gave lip service saying they were trying to increase services and revenue," said Dr. Miles Adler, the former chief of staff for both San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center, "I've always felt the desire, although stated differently, was to close San Leandro Hospital."
Critics have long accused Sutter with cooking the books, but the charge has gained new attention since Sutter's surprise announcement to purchase San Leandro Hospital last week. According to the terms of purchase outlined in the MOU, when reported losses by the hospital are deducted from the net book price of the hospital (estimated at $25 million), the facility purchased by the District for $35 million in 2004, effectively belongs to Sutter.
Adler characterized Sutter's accounting method of cost accounting rather than cash accounting as a primary culprit of the incongruity between ravaging losses on accounting ledgers and emergency rooms teeming with patients. "If you go to 7-Eleven, put $1 on the table for a lottery ticket possibly worth $13 million and you lose," he said, "then according to Sutter's accounting they would say they lost $13 million."
In an interview today with San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos, he believes the policy by some doctors to send patients for diagnostic testing outside of San Leandro Hospital is one reason why the hopsital is in the red. "I do believe Dr. Adler is disingenuous as are some other doctors," Santos said, "They have private practices and I hope they try to do things for the common good, but many send their patients to facilities other than San Leandro Hospital."
"The mayor does not know what goes on in the medical field," said Adler, "He has no clue and never has had one. Because of a weak mayor and weak city council, we are in this position."
Santos recounted an instance when his son--a patient of Adler's--was referred for diagnostic tests in Hayward rather at San Leandro Hospital. "I asked my son, 'why don't they send you to San Leandro?,'" said Santos.
According to Adler, on occasion, doctors send patients outside the district for tests not available in San Leandro. "We send certain work out," said Adler, "This isn't something that just happened. It has always been this way."
Adler says sending patients to other facilities is not the problem and oftentimes attempts to save patients money in this tight economy. "Dr. Adler saving patients money is not the problem," he said "I have a responsibility to save money for patients when I can. Would you rather have a colonoscopy at another place for $500 or pay $4,500 at San Leandro Hospital?"