By STEVEN TAVARESHAYWARD, Calif. - San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos made his most forceful public plea yet to save San Leandro Hospital and its ER. Speaking to the Eden Township Healthcare District Board of Directors Wednesday night, Santos pointedly called for the facility to remain open.
"The people of San Leandro are united on this issue and I stand firmly with them offering hope and demand that the facility remain open along the the ER," said Santos.
In the past six months, many in the community have criticized the mayor's perceived lack of involvement on the issue. While maintaining he has been working on the issue for over two years, his public comments since June have appeared to some as indifference and at times mirroring Sutter talking points, making Wednesday's statements without any equivocation the more surprising, although he later disagreed his position has changed.
"I stand committed to work with you and all other interested parties to find a way to insure everyone in the district has access to quality hospital services," said Santos. He told The Citizen later, the impetus for his more forceful comments came from a decision last week by the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC) to not apply for a license to operate emergency room services at San Leandro Hospital. "To be quite blunt, I am upset at ACMC," said Santos. "If you say you're going to do something, you should do it."
If Sutter's claim to purchase San Leandro Hospital is granted by the Districit or the courts, it would then lease the property to ACMC to run the hospital as an acute rehabilitation facility without emergency room services. Santos, who is running for re-election in 2010, has backed a "hybrid" plan to operate the hospital as an acute rehab, surgical center and emergency room facility, but made no reference to it Wednesday night. The public exclusion of any alternative proposal for San Leandro Hospital by the mayor is telling and points to a breakdown in already tenuous negotiations between Sutter, ACMC and the District.
Santos' comments coupled with Eden Healthcare Director Dr. Vin Sawhney's attempt to fire the District's legal counsel Wednesday point to a new path by supporters of the hospital involving the courts and the legality of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between Sutter and the District. Director Carole Rogers said she has received advice from three separate law firms confirming her belief the agreement can be challenged in court.
Mention of District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar's open letter last week became combustible as some speakers called for his resignation and again raised doubts of his impartiality as a boardmember and employee of Sutter. The letter was criticized for fomenting what many believe is a non-existent split among communities.
"I think it unwise to try and pit people against each other in the two communities of Castro Valley and San Leandro," said state Sen. Ellen Corbett. "I have not seen that at any of the discussions at any of the public meetings that you have held. People are supportive of keeping both hospitals open."
Representatives for the California Nurses Association, the Save San Leandro Coalition and San Leandro City Councilman Jim Prola called for the resignation of Ratnesar and its legal counsel. "It is imperative and a matter of life and death for our residents to keep San Leandro Hospital as a acute care hospital with an ER," said Prola. "In order to do that you need to get more aggressive with Sutter and in order to do that you need a new board president and a new attorney to give you advice."
The Citizen FILE on TONY SANTOS AND SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL
>>>Effectiveness of Local Pols has been Hit and Miss, Oct. 5, 2009.
>>>The Slowly Disappearing City Council, Aug. 28, 2009.
>>>Santos: Hospital's losses partly from Doctor's Private Practices, Aug. 6, 2009
>>>Enabled by Local Government; Sutter Holds the Cards, July 16, 2009.
>>>GRAPHIC: With Hospital on the Verge of Closing, Where's Tony Santos?, June 16, 2009.
>>>Where in the World is Tony Santos?, June 9, 2009.
>>>Santos Takes Timeout to Speak; Defend Self, June 1, 2009.
>>>Q&A with Mayor Tony Santos, June 1, 2009.
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