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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ratnesar's Letter Ignites Firestorm of Responses

OPEN LETTER ACCUSES DISTRICT MEMBERS OF PUTTING HOSPITALS AT RISK...SEN. CORBETT CALLS IT "ANOTHER SCARE TACTIC"....ROGERS: BOARD DID NOT APPROVE LETTER...DESPITE LAWSUIT, RATNESAR CLAIMS 2008 MOU GIVES SUTTER RIGHTS TO SLH
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
In an open letter to the community, Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar accused two of its board members of putting the futures of both San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center at grave risk.

The letter, sent Tuesday afternoon to various media outlets, ignited terse responses from state Sen. Ellen Corbett and current District Director Carole Rogers. Director Dr. Vin Sawhney and Rogers appear to be the intended targets of Ratnesar's surprising missive.

"Recent efforts by two District Board members are stopping progress and seriously threatening the future of all of our hospitals," writes Ratnesar. "In their well-intentioned attempt to save San Leandro Hospital, they are posing a serious threat to San Leandro Hospital, Eden Hospital, the future Sutter Medical Center in Castro Valley, and services at Alameda County Medical Center."

Corbett lashed out at the statement Tuesday calling it "disingenuous, inaccurate and another scare tactic to stop the public from fighting the closure of their hospitals in Castro Valley and San Leandro."

She also supported the efforts of the board, saying it is "working to protect a public asset and ensure that San Leandro Hospital does not become a victim of Sutter Health’s ongoing pattern of irresponsible practices.”

Corbett, who has asked the attorney general's office to investigate Sutter, also forcefully charged Sutter with not making a credible effort to find a solution to the hospital crisis , "It is Sutter Health that has filed the lawsuit that threatens to spend the important remaining assets of the district instead of agreeing to a thoughtful and legitimate mediation process that allows for a less costly solution.”

Rogers, in her response, said the Ratnesar's letter did not receive the approval of the entire board. (Below is an opinion piece from Rogers.)

Last month, Sutter Health sued the District for the transfer of San Leandro Hospital and $5 million in lost revenue. The lawsuit arose from a 3-1 vote by the District in October to block Sutter's option to purchase the hospital. A day after the vote, Sutter announced a lease agreement with the Alameda County Medical Center to run San Leandro Hospital as an acute rehabilitation facility without emergency room services. Afterwards, one director abruptly resigned. Proponents of saving the hospital believe his replacement Dr. Bill West give them a solid majority on the current board.

Despite the lack of a settlement between Sutter and the District over ownership of the hospital, Ratnesar paints a peculiar and somewhat defeatist outlook on the situation while alluding to a rumored settlement between the three parties reported last month in The Citizen. "Our 2008 agreement with Sutter Health gives Sutter the legal right to take ownership of San Leandro Hospital," writes Ratnesar. "It is our wish to work with Sutter and Alameda County Medical Center to find a regional solution that addresses the complex issues faced by all of our hospitals, and find the right mix of services that the community needs and will use."

Ratnesar says Rogers and Sawhney were encouraged by "vocal supporters and labor unions" and contends the continued legal action threatens to put the rebuild of Eden Medical Center in jeopardy. "[Sutter] can simply abandon the project," writes Ratnesar. This is not the first time the reconstruction of Eden has been leveraged by Ratnesar. Eden CEO George Bischalaney also used the threat in June to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors before they approved the Environmental Impact Report for the reconstruction of Eden.

Last month, the Director of Alameda County Health Services Alex Briscoe said pulling up stakes on the $320 million project is unlikely. He told The Citizen, "I can't speak for Sutter, but I don't see any reason for them to leave Eden. There's no impediment stopping them now from building."

Both sides are encouraging the public to attend the next District meeting Dec. 16, 5:30 p.m. at the HARD District Office. The hearing will also mark the debut of its newest member Dr. West, who was appointed to fill the remaining year of Kran's term.

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2 comments :

Ratnesar accuses "two District board members" from "stopping progress", but the Citizen notes that the August Board vote to deny transfer of SLH ownership to Sutter was a 3-1 vote. At the Dec. 16th Board meeting which he (and I) encourage citizens to turn out, I hope Ratnesar dutifully informs the people he represents and clears up the confusion his letter has caused by naming the two Board members he accuses. I then propose that he and they take the time to participate in an open debate about health care needs in the Distict.

The votes blocking Sutter's purchase option went down like this:

YES: Rogers, Sawhney, Dvorsky.
NO: Ratnesar.
ABSTAINED: Kran.

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