By STEVEN TAVARESCASTRO VALLEY, Calif. - Every question the remaining members of the Eden Township Healthcare District posed seemed superfluous except for one. What are your thoughts on San Leandro Hospital? All the answers appeared to suit member Dr. Harry Dvorsky. He refrained from questioning the first round of three candidates to replace Dr. Walter Kran, who resigned in late September. The Board will reconvene again Nov. 10 to interview three more applicants.
One candidate who will have to wait is Dr. William West, who some believe is the front-runner to replace Kran. West will not face the board until their regularly scheduled Nov. 18 meeting. The announcement, made by Board Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar signals Kran's successor will not be named after the second round of interviews next week as some suggested, but just nine days from the deadline to make decision or risk handing jurisdiction over to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
Three applicants introduced themselves to the board Thursday evening at the newly-opened Castro Valley Library. Lester Friedman, the only applicant from outside the medical field; John Chin, a controller for Nightengale Nursing and Dr. Norbert Ralph faced the board with Director Carole Rogers on speakerphone.
Friedman portrayed himself as outside the lines of the District's battles with Eden Hospital and San Leandro Hospital saying, "I have no conflicts with the hospital or anything that should occur." He told the board he has witnessed firsthand the specter of two overflowing emergency rooms when he was transferred to San Leandro Hospital on diversion from Eden. "Any closure would be catastrophic," Friedman said, "If you take away one facility, it's obvious what will happen."
Chin told the group he was uninterested in running for re-election. He said he only learned of the opening while reading the paper at a coffee shop a day before the Oct. 16 deadline. He jokingly wondered what was in his latte that day. Chin said his current position on the turmoil at the District is "neutral" but later struck an opposite chord after reading the board's bylaws in regard to San Leandro Hospital's alleged money-losing operations. "Are we asking the right questions?" he said. "Do thinking about profits fit the needs of the community?" In response to the answer, Ratnesar appeared to wince. When asked by Rogers, the unabashed supporter of keeping San Leandro Hospital's emergency room in operation, about his opinion of alleged cost-shifting by Sutter Health in the District and among the corporation's multiple subsidiaries, Chin called cost-shifting "legitimate according to Medicare."
The board appeared to have a problem with the proximity of Dr. Norbert Ralph's practice to the District. Ralph said he spends four days a week in San Francisco along with a work in Modesto. He also maintains a small practice in San Leandro, but both Directors Dr. Vin Sawhney and Ratnesar came back to the question on separate occasions. Ralph also offered no specifics on any of the questions posed while admitting he was "generally aware of the District's situation" and could offer an "open mind."
The bulk of the questions emanated from either Sawhney or Ratnesar with Rogers, who is out of the area, offering one question to each of the three candidates via conference call. Conversely, Dvorsky, whose mentally acuity has become a looming issue since his vote is likely to appoint a new member, looked dazed and disoriented throughout the process. He declined to ask questions to any of the candidate and appeared to be moving his pen above a piece of paper feigning to write notes. Other moments, he stared blankly at each applicant, which oddly may have significant ramifications for the next two weeks. Some believe Dvorsky's familiarity with West, who is believed to be favored by Rogers, could help gain the director's decisive third vote thereby stacking the board with a solid majority of member interested in keeping San Leandro Hospital open.
Three more applicants will stand before the board Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Castro Valley Library; former Director Dr. Francisco Rico, medical supply owner Steven Ree Worley and two-time board candidate Dr. Ronald Hull.
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