STATE SEN. ELLEN CORBETT The former assemblywowan and mayor of San Leandro is widely regarded as the most high profile politician on this issue and the go-to person powerful enough to counter Sutter's corporate power. Critics will note the absence of any political solution with dollars attached, but Corbett's move along with 13 other local pols to reach out to the attorney general's office is the most significant gambit against
Sutter to date. The AG is currently looking into launching an official investigation into Sutter's alleged pattern of wrongful business dealings at its Northern California hospitals. A bill that would lengthen the time a hospital provider must give notice of closing a hospital from 90 to 120 days currently sits on Gov. Schwarzenegger's desk. In addition, Corbett is the leading proponent of forcing the issue of San Leandro Hospital to a vote under a state health and safety code which says a health care district may not sell assets worth more than half of its holdings without a vote of the people. QUOTABLE "[Sutter] has 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?"
ASSEMBLYWOMAN MARY HAYASHI The two-term assemblywoman has been notably absent from the issue in recent months. Known as one of the most petulant politicians in the East Bay, Hayashi was active on the issue as earlier this spring, but seemed to lose interest after an odd blow-up with Sen. Corbett in June. Dueling terse press releases highlighted Hayashi's deciding no vote in committee. Hayashi co-sponsored the bill with Corbett raising eyebrows as to why she torpedoed her own piece of legislation. At the time she called it a good bill that needed work. The incident between two Democrats working on the same local issue still confuses many officials around town. Many believe Hayashi is girding up for a Titanic tilt for Corbett's senate seat. Her only public statement on this issue came in June when she sent a representative to play a pre-recorded speech. Her rep told the large gathering at the San Leandro Library the assemblywoman could not attend because of budget crisis in Sacramento, even though Corbett was sitting at the back of the room. QUOTABLE "Saving San Leandro Hospital is my top priority." Watch the video here.
MAYOR TONY SANTOS Aside from the health of potential patients in the community, no one has more at stake by San Leandro Hospital closing than Santos, yet many believe he has shown indifference over the issue. A hearing does not pass without one resident criticizing the mayor's lack of involvemnet. He has repeatedly called the issue out of his control, but says he has been dealing with the problem for over two years—way before anyone else--he will add. Numerous insiders, brand the mayor as being pro-Sutter in his talking points when he says Sutter, as a business, has no obligation to subsidize a money-losing hospital and charging doctors with hastening San Leandro's financial demise by outsourcing procedures and tests to outside vendors. Being seen at the July 1 groundbreaking of Sutter's new hospital in Castro Valley hardened that perception. If the mayor, indeed, tended to lean towards Sutter in the past, the future may be different. Sutter officials were reportedly livid over Santos' comments in The Citizen when he said the hospital would stay open because of pandemic concerns until the end of January 2010. Political wisdom says the longer the hospital's fate is up in the air come the June mayoral primary, the easier opponents will be able to pin the loss of a public asset on him. QUOTABLE "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."
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL The six-member council has primarily been the punching bag of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, while offering very little pushback. Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley have both viciously excoriated the group for offering, what they contend, is no leadership on the issue. Haggerty even infamously crumpled a letter from the council during a meeting and threw it into a trash can calling it a “piece of crap.” Like Mayor Santos, the majority of the council believe the issue belongs under the jurisdiction of the county, not the city since a majority of the patients at San Leandro Hospital arrive from Oakland and other cities. Councilman Jim Prola has been the loudest voice consistently charging Sutter with medical redlining and saying he does not trust them. Councilman Michael Gregory, whose district the hospital resides in, faces re-election in 2010. Gregory was one of the earliest politicians putting out the clarion call for action to save the hospital when he organized a series of town hall meetings on the subject in May, but has been absent since. Despite certain vulnerability, no candidate has emerged to challenge him next year. The rest of the council has been virtually mute on the hospital with some rarely attending public meetings. The most notable wallflower is Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak, who will run against Santos next year. Sources say Starosciak's strong support of Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi will dictate her agenda (Hayashi has been quiet on the hospital) with Sutter and the hospital. The Santos/Sutter brouhaha and Hayashi/Starosciak duo may link the mayor's race and the fate of the hospital in an unlikely way. QUOTABLE "[Former Director of the Alameda County Health Services] Dave Kears is trying to shift responsibility on to us," said Prola, "I believe it's the county's responsibility not just San Leandro's because only a third of our residents use the hospital."
SUPERVISOR ALICE LAI-BITKER If one politician is stuck between a proverbial rock and a hard place it's Lai-Bitker. She has consistently juggled the agenda of the county with her conscience to varied results. Many of her proposals have misfired including announcing to great fanfare in June her intention to have the county rescind its offer to the Alameda County Medical Center to move rehabilitation services to San Leandro Hospital as the prospect of another health care vendor briefly arose. Nothing came of the action, when a decisive third vote on the board of supervisors could not be cajoled out of Supervisor Keith Carson. Although her plan to create a hybrid hospital of emergency room services, surgery and rehab facilities at San Leandro Hospital is still kicked around, it is now viewed as the best case scenario if all else fails. Lai-Bitker's bipartisan proposals stem from an aversion to having the county possibly having a shuttered hospital in San Leandro without a tenant if Sutter and the Alameda County Medical Center walk away. There is a school of thought that Lai-Bitker, whose mother passed away last week, will find a second wind in saving the hospital after facing first-hand the real life stakes losing a hospital has on patients and survivors. QUOTABLE "[The Board of Supervisors] came in because there was no other option, so now there is an option,” she said of an offer from a Southern California company to purchase the hospital, “The directors deserve to have the process go through and explore and evaluate whether it's a viable option.”
REP. PETE STARK Where's Pete? The long time practicioner of liberal East Bay politics has certainly been busy on the national stage as he tries to enact universal health care, but without question he's been absent on this health care issue. You can try asking him his thoughts, but you won't get an answer from him or his people. While Fremont's Nummi and its 4,700 autoworkers stood on the chopping block, Stark and others were there, yet an equally distressing situation where over 1,000 people could die annually due to the loss of a key emergency room, the congressmen is silent. Many note that local health care is typically a state issue, but with Federal stimulus dollars floating in the wind, the stated $4-7 million subsidy for San Leandro Hospital is a mere pittance. Cynics will say you cannot obtain Stark's chairmanship on the Ways and Means Health Committee without sizable support from the health care lobby QUOTABLE No comment.
>>>THE EDEN TOWNSHIP HEATLHCARE DIRECTORS<<<
DR. RAJENDRA RATNESAR No other member of the Eden Township board has weathered more calls for potential conflict of interest charges than Ratnesar. As an employee of Sutter, he reportedly earns over $100,000 a year while serving as the board's chair. Various groups led by the Calfornia Nurses Association charged Ratnesar with being on the take last June when reports surfaced alleging other members of the board not including Ratnesar faced potential conflict of interests suits. To the uproar of many nurses and doctors, he recently removed member Carole Rogers from a mediation committee for distributing “inappropriate” materials to the mediator. Soft-spoken and slight, Ratnesar does not appear to hold a strong grip over the board's action and shows a tendency to flub simple rules of order during meetings. A recall effort is currently in its infancy to remove Ratnesar, but such a move may not have time to affect the near-term effort to save the hospital. QUOTABLE "There are many members who you could say have a conflict of interest. We all have worked in the medical field."
DEV MAHADEVAN The CEO of the Eden Township District is alleged to be the board's tether to Sutter corporate. Behind the scenes, some contend he is difficult to work with, but keeps a somewhat low profile. During a meeting in August when the board rescinded Sutter's plan to purchase the hospital, the turn of events had a few board members glancing towards Mahadevan for direction. Mahadevan's role may grow larger in coming week's as the board looks to replace Dr. Walter Kran. QUOTABLE In response to a question whether the abruptly cancelled mediation hearing was rescheduled because of Sawhney's protest, Mahadevan said, "you could put it that way."
DR. VIN SAWHNEY The new kid on the block, Sawhney is the most forceful voice on the board. He has consistently led the way in blocking various proposals likely to have grease the skids towards the closing of San Leandro Hospital. It was Sawhney's motion in June that killed the county's plan to move rehabilitation facilities from Fairmont to San Leandro Hospital. He followed with leading the way in blocking Sutter's option to purchase the hospital along with forcing the board to seek a second legal opinion (underway) and launching an independent review of the hospital's financial records (not underway). Sawhney is the board's most passionate supporter of saving the hospital. QUOTABLE "We should keep fighting until the last day, even if we go down, we must fight."
CAROL ROGERS, RN Along with Sawhney, no other board member is more trusted by doctors and nurses and likely the community than Rogers. The current nurse at Highland Hospital is the least removed from witnessing the realities of closing a hospital. In recent weeks, her patience with the board's dealings and relationship to Sutter has grown non-existent after Ratnesar removed her from the board's mediation committee with Sutter. The controversial move may have been illegal. Undeterred, Rogers showed up at the site of the meeting anyhow and found it cancelled. More telling, Rogers have been very candid about her dealings with Dr. Walter Kran, telling The Citizen and later a group at Eden Medical Center about conversations with him about the whereabouts of a “secret location” and saying Kran needed to ask Mahadevan whether he would attend the last board meeting. The hearing was eventually cancelled at the last minute. Rogers has said she will not run for another term in 2010. QUOTABLE "I don't think Sutter is going to back down from Eden Hospital. They already have too much invested."
DR. HARRY DVORSKY The health of the once noted San Leandro physician is far less than it once was. Dvorsky has uttered very few words in various meetings since May and The Citizen reported widespread concern on the board and local politicians about his mental capacity to make all-important decisions regarding the fate of the hospital. Various sources say he has stated a desire to keep the doors open at San Leandro Hospital, but his voting record shows inconsistency. Many say his wife, who also serves on the Chabot College/Las Positas board is calling the shots, yet Dvorsky's propensity to blurting out indecipherable statements and inability to follow the course of debate during meetings is the 800-pound gorilla at the Eden Healthcare District. One source with knowledge of Sutter's dealings, say Dvorsky was told to vote against the motion halting Sutter's plan to purchase the hospital along with Kran's decision to abstain; turning a 2-2 deadlock into a 3-1 victory for the community. QUOTABLE When a doctor representing physicians read a statement to the board, Dvorsky harshly said, ""What the hell are you trying to say?"
DR. WALTER KRAN In a story known for being supremely unpredictable, Kran's sudden resignation Sept. 28 left mouth's agape. Little is known yet about his departure, but it did follow a string of erratic behavior more similar to a bad espionage thriller than ho-hum healthcare issues. Along with Dvorsky, Kran says very little although he tended to exhibit exaggerated facial expressions which sometimes gave a window into what he was thinking. Although, elected as a bulwark against Sutter, many believe he was in their camp, although possibly half-heartily. Sources say Kran and other members may have been threatened with legal jeopardy by their actions (or inactions) by Sutter. How the board replaces a pivotal vote is likely to be the next front in the battle between the community and Sutter. QUOTABLE Not much. During a vote to block Sutter's purchase option he abstained and said, "I don't have enough information."
>>>THE BUREAUCRATS AND ADMINISTRATORS<<<
EDEN CEO GEORGE BISCHALANEY The mercurial executive has been relatively quiet recently. Most believe he is merely Sutter Health's foot soldier receiving orders from headquarters in Sacramento. At an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting in June, he was pressured by Supervisor Nate Miley to negotiate turning over operations of San Leandro Hospital to another health care vendor. Bischalaney reluctantly agreed, but reports in The Citizen say they flat out refused Prime's advances in person and one with a hybrid model in mind. One of the more comedic moments of this entire story occurred at the Sept. 3 Eden Township meeting where residents were shutout of the meeting and Bischalaney reportedly threatened to call the sheriff on the group. QUOTABLE On approving the environmental impact report, he struck an ominous tone. “Any delay is a problem. Candidly, who knows beyond that. I cannot assure you [the rebuild of Eden Hospital] will pull through.”
DR. MILES ADLER Sources say the former chief of staff of Eden Medical Center and San Leandro Hospital was burned by Sutter's stated intention to keep the hospital open if it could turn a profit. Once a backer of Sutter, Adler is now one of the more vociferous voices charging the hospital chain with cooking the books at San Leandro Hospital and facilitating its financial demise. Adler is no friend of the powers at City Hall, either. He called San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos "clueless" over accusations doctors outsource medical procedures to outside vendors. Adler also criticized the absence of some members of the city council during a recent forum on the hospital hosted by state Sen. Ellen Corbett and wondered aloud why five of six members believed the hospital was not an important enough topic to attend the meeting. QUOTABLE "It is very disappointing when one thinks there are five city council people who don't think it's important enough to come to a forum of this nature with their own constituents sitting in the audience."
DAVID KEARS The recently retired director of Alameda County Health Services still casts a long shadow over the possible future of San Leandro Hospital. It is Kears' analysis the county needs an influx of rehabilitation beds to be a fully functioning hospital system. When one of the current such facilities at Farimont Hospital proved too costly to seismically upgrade, the possibility of converting San Leandro Hospital became a tantalizing option. Universally recognized as one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors welcomed the plan absent any other offers to operate what was believed to be a hospital swimming in the red. Critics now question the plan since data supplied by Sutter on the hospital's finances and usage revealed more of a need for its emergency room services than initially believed. Kears has also been critical of San Leandro's lack of a plan for their hospital similar to the takeover by the city of Alameda and their facility which was financed with an annual $300 parcel tax. QUOTABLE "We need a firm commitment, not a we'll explore it or not anything. Go to the city council. Ask to take an action--make a decision. Go to the district. Have the district look at their resources. Put real money on the table. Take actions that result in actually saving hospitals as oppose to shifting responsibility onto someone else."
ALEX BRISCOE As the current interim director of Alameda County Health Services, the youthful Briscoe quickly changed the tenor of the agency's beliefs after Kears' retirement. Sources say moving rehabilitation services from Fairmont to San Leandro Hospital was conceived under Briscoe's watch. Insiders say he was reluctant to stand by the plan's merits under Kears because of the political ramifications which eventually flared to this day. As acting director, Briscoe's comments at the Alameda County Board of Supervisor meeting in July corroborated the widespread belief Sutter's numbers regarding the usage of the hospital's emergency room was understated and touched off a debate among supporters of saving the hospital that its financial numbers were also faulty. QUOTABLE "Sutter has told us that Prime is a non-starter, period,"
CALIFORNIA NURSES ASSOCIATION In an age, where the attention of the local press is perfunctory, the nurses union has been a catalyst for drumming up community support for saving its member's jobs and a community asset. Always good for a biting quote, representatives for the union have screamed for the resignation of health care directors at meetings, organized chanting picket lines in front of the Board of Supervisors chambers and distributed literature across the city. It is hard to imagine local politicians having enough cache to fight for the hospital without the presence of the union and its members making their voices consistently heard. QUOTABLE "It's been a community effort with health care workers and doctors. Everybody was just sounding the alarm. At first, it wasn't happening. It was just falling on deaf ears, but obvious now the community is in alert mode,” said labor rep Mike Brannan.
DR. PREM REDDY/PRIME The maverick Southern California hospital baron arrived on the scene in June with much fanfare and exited without ever being heard again. His company, Prime Healthcare has gobbled up 13 failing hospitals in the state and claims to have quickly turned around the financial prospects. Prime's business model of funneling patients through its ER concerns many in the industry who feel the state will eventually clamp down on the company. Some believe its penchant for cancelling existing insurance agreements will further cripple the state's failing health system. The addition of Prime to the San Leandro Hospital question, in hindsight, may have given supporters of the hospital valuable ammunition in the following months showing another company wanted to operate the hospital and gave the county pause for backing a plan to move rehab to the hospital when another plan existed. Twice in the past months, Prime has attempted to negotiate with Sutter to a resounding no, but still sends a representative to nearly every public meeting. QUOTABLE “I can turn a failed community hospital into a successful community resource."
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