EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Board's New Course Fraught With Danger

HEALTH SERVICES DIRECTOR SAYS LITIGATION COULD JEOPARDIZE HOSPITAL

By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
Now that the Eden Township Healthcare District has cut ties with its legal counsel the board has effectively charted a new course in its bid to save San Leandro Hospital. The question becomes what exactly happens if the pursuit of a legal solution drags into the spring and summer months?

According to the Director of Alameda County Health Services Alex Briscoe, the move by the Eden board represents a risky gamble that may hamper the hospital's ability to function past July 1. "I think there's a faction on the board saying we are going to ignore the 2007 agreement," said Briscoe. "I hope the board has good legal advice from their lawyers that they can win and I don't know, maybe they do." The 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between Sutter Health and the District ensured the reconstruction of Eden Medical Center and gave San Leandro Hospital two years to reverse alleged financial losses. The agreement also gave Sutter the option to purchase the hospital which was pursued earlier this fall and blocked by the District. The dispute led to the filing of a lawsuit by Sutter in early November.

Briscoe agrees with statements made this week by San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and Eden Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar saying the firing of long-time counsel Craig Cannizzo negatively influences any current deal to save the hospital. "They may have overstated it, but you would have to be a fool not to see this action could blow up in the board's face." Briscoe hesitated sounding the alarms on the hospital's demise but said, "Litigation could jeopardize any option at the hospital."

A day after the District's first attempt to remove Cannizzo, the attorney quickly scrambled to put together a deal involving the District, county and Sutter Health. Ratnesar told The Citizen, Sutter listened to the proposal out of respect for their long relationship with Cannizzo and the District. Sources, though, say Sutter has never had interest in entering into any arrangement with the hospital. Without confirming any talks with Sutter on a deal involving a hybrid medical facility at San Leandro Hospital, Briscoe said, "In the absence of real dollars, there is no deal." Briscoe has long maintained two studies confirm any hybrid option would need a yearly subsidy of between $6-9 million.

Stacey Wells, a spokesperson for Sutter Health, reiterated the health providers stance on the ownership of the San Leandro Hospital saying, "We have exercised our contractual right to acquire title to the property and we are pursuing title through the appropriate processes, given the District's refusal to convey title. This is an ongoing legal matter and anything further would be speculation."

Briscoe says the issue of the hospital's operating license becomes "critical to any plan" starting July 1 with or without a settlement of the hospital's ownership. When the county drew up plans months ago in advance of a possible transfer of the hospital, he says, part of the deal entails a short-term suspension of the hospital's license to avoid large additional capital expenses to the transaction's price tag instead of starting the licensing process from the beginning. What occurs if the current legal stalemate continues into the summer is unknown or whether an extension could be granted. Any announcement by Sutter to shutter the facility must occur 90 days before their year-long option to purchase the property passes July 1.

Santos told The Citizen Wednesday afternoon he supports the city procuring various government grants to keep the hospital open and says he has spoken with Rep. Pete Stark's office on the chance of receiving federal dollars. Santos, though, hesitated in supporting any allocation of city funds likely to run more than $1 million a year. Any deal involving city money would be difficult to come by in an already tight budget with drastic cuts on the horizon, Santos said.

Briscoe says the county will be willing to join any funding possibilities with the District and the city to add leverage to any plan against Sutter. He also indicated financial help to both entities could be discussed down the line, but fell short on indicating its likelihood in the current situation.

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11 comments :

Rogers and Sawhney will bankrupt the district in their pursuit to discredit Sutter.

The poor people in the district who have depended upon the district for healthcare programs will suffer.

Shame on Rogers and Sawhney.

"HEALTH SERVICES DIRECTOR SAYS LITIGATION COULD JEOPARDIZE HOSPITAL"

Steven,

Aren't you forgetting that it is Sutter that has sued the district? This is like blaming Lincoln for the attack on Fort Sumner.

It is Sutter's lawsuit and plan of action that could jeopardize the hospital - as we know it. If Sutter succeeds, there will no longer be 24 hour, seven day a week ER care in San Leandro.

There are other options, such as Prime taking over the hospital and continuing to provide ER care. I'm thankful that directors Sawhney, Rogers and West are fighting to keep the hospital open.

I hope one of the first actions the new counsel for the district examines is Dr. Ratnesar's conflict of interest. I don't see how an employee of Sutter can serve on an elected board and make decisions concerning a lawsuit filed by Sutter against the board.

Stephen Cassidy

Stephen,

Like Rogers is blameless. She is a bought and paid for union hack.

Sawhney is just trying to save his mediocre medical practice.

Give me a break. These two are the best directors that union money can buy.

Sutter will prepare in their lawsuit. The district needs to follow the agreement they made with sutter and stop this taxpayer money bleed.

I have heard, true or not, that Sutter will fight to bitter end to not allow Prime to come to San Leandro .Mr. Cassidy is a non practising attorney, but it is assumed he understands contract law and parol evidence rule. The contract between Sutter and the district and speaks for itself. How to get around it?

The anonymous commenters above are quite dishonest. Sutter Health is the one trying to destroy healthcare programs in the District. The majority of the Board (three or four in every vote) has been taking actions since June in efforts to save those services. Dr. Dvorsky has joined the majority in two of those votes, yet we notice you're not trying to execute bizarre and ineffective slurs against him. Some questions for these misinformed, cowardly commenters:

- If Sutter cares at all about needed healthcare services for poor people in the District, why don't they announce that they will subsidize services at San Leandro Hospital or allow the District to gain another operator to take over those full ER and Acute Care services? They're a non-profit which has made over $3 BILLION in profit since 2003, after all.

- Why would it be that "Sutter will fight to the bitter end to not allow Prime to come to San Leandro"?

- Wouldn't it "bankrupt the district" quicker if the Board allowed SLH, an asset the District purchased for $35 million in 2004, to be taken for one penny as Sutter is claiming they have the right to do? How can such an assertion of
an agreement be anything other than highly corrupt?

- The Emergency Room at SLH sees around 25,000 patients a year and 20,000 Inpatient days a year. More than half of the ER patients seen in 2008 were too ill for the limited-hour Urgent Care clinic proposed, with over 1,300 treated for critical conditions. If Sutter becomes successful in their goal of closing the ER and Acute Care beds, how many people will needlessly die over the next generation?

I hope the district has a plan if this goes to court for awhile. I'm with Rogers and Sawhney, but what's their plan A and B?....

If the problem is a subsidy then let's cut to the chase. Find the money and be done with it. Washington is about to spend a trllion on healthcare why can't our representatives in Congress get a few million for San Leandro Hospital. In the big scheme of things $6-$9 million is nothing.

Is there anything worse than Sutter subverts spamming this comments section. Incapable of making intelligent discussion, they make personal attacks.
I, for one, live in Castro valley and want nothing more than than the continuation of full acute healthcare services at San Leandro Hospital. This will serve the entire district well, as our aging community moves into the next decade.
So, let us cut the crap "Mr Anonymous Sutter." Yours is an all costs business decision. Don't fault a nurses union that actually puts the welfare of the public bfore enormous profit margins. Don't fault Swahney, Rogers, or West for representing the very patients they cared for over the years. It might serve some of the Sutter business elite to engage in a little laying on of hands. They may learns what ethics, and morals is all about.
Finally, Mr Anonymous Sutter, if San Leandro Hospital is such a liability, and money loser, then step away. Save yourself some anguish, since you are likely to lose this battle. The people want SLH open, and Sutter should not bite the hand that feeds it!
Sincerely,
Mark Phillips
Castro Valley
PS That you Frank Rico ;).

"Bought and paid for union hack?" It seems that the nurses are the ones doing the paying via our union dues. Nurses can get jobs anywhere so it is not an issue of us losing our jobs, the issue is losing our patients to stupid Sutter corporate greed.

To Mark Phillips:
What does "PS That you Frank Rico ;)" mean? If I get your drift let me state unequivocally that I have never sent a letter to an editor, a blog or a comment on this site that was sent anonymously. I ALWAYS IDENTIFY MY SELF AS THE AUTHOR OF EVERYTHING THAT I WRITE! The reason: I'm not afraid to stand up and be counted even when my stand is not popular.

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