By STEVEN TAVARESAs Sutter Health and the Eden Township Healthcare District meet in mediation starting today, one participant is no longer on the team.
Eden Township Director Carole Rogers was removed as one of the two members from the mediation committee. She has been replaced by another director Dr. Vin Sawhney.
According to Sawhney and other sources, Rogers was stripped of her duties by the District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar because of "inappropriate" documents presented by her to the mediator.
It is unclear how Ratnesar was privy to such documents or what they contained. Rogers was unable to be contacted for this story. Concern on the side of those who seek to keep San Leandro Hospital open was lessened by the appointment of Sawhney. The move, in those circles, is viewed as exchanging one director who is pro-San Leandro Hospital with another.
Generally, correspondences to the mediator are sent independently by each side of the conflict. Sawhney said each participant was invited to supply the mediator with information they felt pertinent to the case. It is also unclear whether Ratnesar, who had been accused by the nurses union last June as being less than impartial, had the authority to make the switch.
Dr. Walter Kran, another District director is the other member of the mediation committee attempting to resolve Sutter's claim on the hospital.
The news of Rogers' removal comes at a possibly pivotal week for the fate of San Leandro Hospital. In addition, to today's mediation meeting, the District will hold its monthly meeting tomorrow in Castro Valley where Sawhney believes the subject of their dispute over Sutter's decision to pursue its purchase option for the hospital and the subsequent mediation will be discussed.
More ominously, there are rumors swirling that Sutter may soon announce their intention to pull the plug on San Leandro Hospital as early as this week. The Citizen previously reported comments made by San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos in city council chambers that Sutter would keep the hospital open until the end of January 2010 because of pandemic fears, but those prospects may have since changed.
According to their agreement with the District, any announcement by Sutter to close the hospital would call for its to cease its current configuration 90 days later. Such an announcement would have the facility closed just after Christmas.
In the past, Sutter has made astonishing announcements twice on the day proceeding a move against them by the District or county. Sutter followed a decision by the District Aug. 18 to block the proposed sale of the hospital by shocking most everyone the next day by announcing the signing of a lease with the Alameda County Medical Center to run the facility as a rehabilitation center.
In late July, Sutter quashed efforts by Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker to obtain assurances the emergency room at San Leandro could be subsidized in the short term by the District and city of San Leandro when they revealed July 28 they were seeking the purchase of the facility.
A major sticking point may be the fact the mediation Sutter and the District agreed upon Sept. 3 is non-binding, meaning whatever is decided or not has no legal teeth for either side to abide with. Some believe by going the mediation route Sutter can effectively run out the clock on the process and return to its stated goal of turning the hospital over to ACMC and transfer rehab services from Fairmont Hospital.
"I'm sure this is something they will try, but I don't this is a done deal yet," said Sawhney. "I still think there are things that can be done." Some of the possible remedies according to Sawhney are following through with mediation, possibly entering into arbitration and, if needed, pursuing other legal avenues.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they say this is our decision and this is what we are going to do," said Sawhney, "I don't believe this is something they can legally do."
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