EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Public Shutout of Hospital Meeting; District Agrees to Mediation

GROUP OF OVER 30 NOT ALLOWED TO ADDRESS BOARD.....EDEN CEO THREATENS TO CALL SHERIFF IF SUPPORTERS DID NOT 'DISPERSE'....MEMBER ROGERS SAYS BOARD WAS NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE ON LETTING CITIZENS IN....ROGERS WILL SERVE ON MEDIATION COMMITTEE, KRAN ALSO A POSSIBILITY

By Steven Tavares
The Citizen
CASTRO VALLEY, Calif.- Over thirty supporters of saving San Leandro Hospital, including three San Leandro council members and a former mayor were denied access to a meeting of the Eden Township Healtcare District at Eden Medical Center.

A spokesperson for the District notified the group that no public session would be held shortly before it was scheduled to begin. District Director Carole Rogers said later the board was overruled by legal counsel and not allowed to vote on whether to allow the public to comment before entering a closed session.

The agenda for the special meeting was posted just over a day ago and references an "executive session" followed by mention of "no public session", yet oddly includes a header asking for those to comment to request it from the chair.

"They can go into an executive session, but there is always a public portion of the meeting, usually at the beginning where you can hear public commentary," said David Brannan of the California Nurses Association, "To have a public meeting of elected officials without any public access is scary."

San Leandro City Councilmember Jim Prola, who routinely deals with the rigors of open government, urged district officials to comply with the Brown Act, the often cited state law that encourages open access to public meetings.

"It is Sutter's intention to be against the will of the public," Prola said. "They realize they are losing the battle and they are worried the public has had some influence with this board and this is why we are being shutout tonight."

Shortly after the meeting's scheduled 5:30 p.m. start, Rogers emerged from the board room to alert the group that Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney had threatened to summon a sheriff to the hospital if they did not "disperse." By all accounts, the group was far from unruly. Included were council members Joyce Starosciak, Michael Gregory and Prola along with former Mayor Shelia Young.

Meanwhile, behind closed doors, the Eden Township Healthcare District agreed to enter non-binding mediation with Sutter Health to resolve questions over their bid to purchase San Leandro Hospital. During the last District meeting Aug. 18, legal counsel invoked the notion of dispute resolution contained in the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding signed by Sutter and the District.

"It was pretty clear at the last board meeting that they were rejecting it as a way of moving ahead," said Brannan. The board voted 3-1 to block Sutter's option to purchase the hospital.

Rogers confirmed that she has accepted a role on the mediation committee and said another director, Dr. Walter Kran, was asked, but has not yet accepted. By entering into non-binding mediation, any firm decision on the fate of San Leandro Hospital will likely be pushed forward. If the past is any indication, the non-binding aspect of the deal may afford Sutter the opportunity to negotiate while pushing through its stated plan to lease the facility to the Alameda County Medical Center.

"I think it is typical of Sutter to use the heavy-handed approach," said Prola, "They do not care what the citizens of this community think. They only care about their own bottom line and their way of calming the public is to shut them up."

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3 comments :

Not allowing public access to that meeting was nothing more than BS

The District does have leverage over Sutter in this mediation. One area in which this is immediately apparent is Sutter' broken committment to rebuild the 4th Floor at San Leandro Hospital.

Sutter closed the floor a few years ago, and made an agreement with the District to redesign the patient rooms in order to make them appropriate for Rehabilitation patients. The fact that no conversion was begun is not just a violation of a contractual agreement. It is also symptomatic of Sutter's intentional mismanagement of San Leandro Hospital.

If Sutter had completed this rebuild, admitted Rehabilitation patients and executed the program in good faith, it would have been a money-maker for San Leandro Hospital. So, why didn't they? The answer: Sutter doesn't want SLH to make money or gain utilization; that would make it more difficult for Sutter to close needed services at the hospital.

Why is Sutter taking actions which will cause suffering and death in our communities? Because it's more profitable for them to do so under our current, incredibly dysfunctional health care system. We need to solve this problem. There are people like the corporate heads at Sutter who want to prevent solutions. There are others who are confused about the causes, and there are others who are indifferent. We've got to shove past them all and win anyway.

Once again, Sutter Health diplays contempt for the public that it serves.
Don't we pay out insurance premiums that you feed on, Sutter Health? Don't we pay our taxes that fund your Medicare and Medicaid dollars? And still, you behave like we don't exist.
Shame on you!
Be careful as you bite the hand that feeds you. That hand may stop feeding you!
Phillip Marks
Castro Valley Resident

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