EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Veto of Hospital Bill Removes a Tool in Saving ER

GOVERNATOR FOCUSES ON BUSINESS INTERESTS IN VETO MESSAGE
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
None of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's vetoes this week had more impact on San Leandro than his decision to returned state Sen. Ellen Corbett's bill designed to give the community more reaction time in the event of closing the city's emergency room. The bill would have also mandated a minimum of three public meetings for residents to discuss such a closure.

“I am extremely disappointed the Governor chose to veto a bill that would have a direct impact on my community and so many others around the state,” Sen. Corbett said in a statement Monday. “I cannot think of any valid reason to be against providing the community more notice.”

Schwarzenegger's veto message, though, makes no mention of the bill's intention to supply notice and foment community involvement. Instead, the governor cited the possibility of understaffed hospital's due to expected high attrition rates. The criticism was denied last month by Corbett at a health care district meeting in Castro Valley.

Schwarzenegger wrote, "Forcing hospitals to keep an emergency room open, especially when they are closing because of financial circumstance, will only jeopardize patient care due to the rapid attrition of medical and nursing staff, as well as suppliers."

The defeat of Corbett's bill is not likely a mortal blow to efforts hoping to keep San Leandro Hospital and its emergency room services operating, but likely removes a strategic tool against Sutter Health and its stated intention to eventually close the money-losing facility. The inclusion of three public meetings within the 120 days of the emergency rooms closing could have been a key part of the legislation within the scope of San Leandro Hospital, where residents have attended in droves with near universal derision against Sutter's plans. Many believe the intensity of the opposition has led to specific defeats against the hospital provider and forced it to change strategy.

“The bill did not force hospitals to do anything but to plan in such a way that they give notice earlier instead of simply leaving town in order to block a replacement provider. In the Bay Are, Sutter Health appears to have the pattern of closing hospitals quickly in order to eliminate competition.”

Corbett has lead the way along with over a dozen Northern California legislators urging Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate Sutter's alleged pattern of misleading health care districts to their own benefit.

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