SUTTER SHOWED NO INTEREST IN THE OFFER
Prime Healthcare, the Southern California hospital operator with designs on taking over San Leandro Hospital, met with Sutter Health officials last month, according to the CEO of Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding--one of Prime's recent acquisitions in the state.
Randall Hempling told The Citizen, the two health care providers met last month regarding Prime's desire to take over the hospital and keep emergency services intact. Hempling said the discussion did not lead to any reversal in Sutter's plan to lease the hospital to the Alameda County Medical Center to become an acute rehabilitation center replacing the aging and seismically-deficient Fairmont Hospital.
"We've have strong business model that we've shown works," said Hempling "and Sutter believes they have a strong business model, too."
Many contend Sutter is looking to avoid the possibility of having a competing hospital just miles away from its sparkling new $300 million facility currently under construction in Castro Valley.
In June, when the owner of Prime, Prem Reddy, addressed a large group at a Eden Township Board meeting he brought the gathering to its feet promising to improve the hospital while keeping its existing labor contracts. In the meantime, Prime has laid low and positioned itself as a possible savior to many in the community who merely want the hospital saved at any cost. "If it's a choice between Prime running the hospital and no hospital, I'll chose Prime," John Kalafatich told The Citizen in June.
A few weeks later, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley pressed Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney to negotiate with Prime. He agreed, although tepidly, but nothing has come close to materializing.
Prime, which runs 13 hospitals mostly in Southern California, has pressed the issue of running the hospital, while giving residents a measure of hope the hospital could remain open. Some county officials, though, believe the business model Prime uses to turn bankrupt hospitals into profitable enterprises by funneling patients through the emergency room will eventually stymie the state's already creaky health care system. Former Director of Alameda County Health Services David Kears said in June he believes the state would eventually limit the model that also seeks to cancel existing deals with insurance providers allowing Prime to receive a larger portion of the pie.
Including Prime as a option for San Leandro Hospital has fallen to the foreground of discussions the past few months. Many lawmakers mention the controversial corporation and its charismatic owner as an option in public statements, but shade their inclusion in less than reverential words.
Hempling, who has been a regular at many recent hearings, says the company is nimble enough to take over the hospital at a moments notice. "We can do it on the fly," he said, "in two weeks."
When asked if Prime was like a forlorn admirer just waiting for the woman of his dreams to split from her lover he said, "If that's how it is, we'll take it."