Just three months ago, the makeup of the Eden Township Healthcare District was a fairly consistent majority of boardmembers comfortable with acquiescing to Sutter Health's plan for San Leandro Hospital to become an acute rehabilitation facility.
The swing vote was Dr. Walter Kran and the District's legal counsel was allegedly orchestrating the board's movements through the chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar. At minimum, critics screamed, Ratnesar is drawing a paycheck that eventually leads to Sutter's accounting department.
Fast forward to last Wednesday night and the District's Velvet Revolution led by Directors Carole Rogers and Dr. Vin Sawhney is nearly complete.
As we start a new year, the composition and resolve of the board is vastly different. Rogers is now the chair of the board. Sawhney is new the vice chair and newly appointed Dr. Bill West is secretary. Dr. Harry Dvorsky is far more lucid and the former head of the board, Ratnesar, has had his influence neutralized, while the attorney many on the board believed stifled any aggressive legal action against Sutter is gone.
The counterclaim against Sutter by the District's interim counsel is a good start, but as one observer of the hospital situation said, going after the unfinished fourth floor is "the low-hanging fruit" within the legal dispute. More legal tussling with Sutter is needed, precisely evidence pointing to Sutter cooking the books at San Leandro Hospital, as critics allege, to show a facility perilessly in the red.
The only strategy that has stymied Sutter has been the voice of the people. It is a plausible assumption the fervent voice of the community is the sole reason San Leandro Hospital is still open in the middle of January.
Through the actions of Rogers and Sawhney, the board is now fully equipped stand toe-to-toe with Sutter, yet the battle is nowhere near a stalemate. As they have since the signing of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding, Sutter still holds all the cards. The important difference now, is the District and its lawyers realize they are down three touchdowns with two minutes left in the game. There is no use for time-wasting running plays when big play passes are sorely needed. The board needs to continue calling for the "Hail Mary" on every play until the hospital is saved. This is the reality the community needs if they are to calibrate the next surge in support for saving the hospital.
To this point, standing pat has not worked for the District and its move towards fighting Sutter in the courts is an unknown quantity in its early stages. The only strategy that has stymied Sutter has been the voice of the people. They have been a civic force and represent the biggest weapon in the hospital's arsenal. It is a plausible assumption the fervent voice of the community is the sole reason San Leandro Hospital is still open in the middle of January 2010. That voice has also transferred itself through every aspect on the new District board and emboldened a few notable boardmembers to have the courage to fight harder. The message now to the community is the same: you have fought a gallant battle thus far, but you need to fight harder.