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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Invoice Casts Doubt on Author of Ratnesar's Letter

Citizen Exclusive! 
BILL TO EDEN DISTRICT REFERS TO SUTTER EMPLOYEE AS AUTHOR OF BOARDMEMBER'S DEC. 'LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY' 

By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen  
The afternoon before the release of Eden Township Healthcare District boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar's contentious "Letter to the Community", the District CEO and media relations consultant conferred over a draft appearing to be attributed to a Sutter Health employee and not the then-chair of the board, according to an invoice for services charged to the District.

The invoice lists services rendered on Dec. 7 which references a meeting with Eden Township Healthcare District CEO Dev Mahadevan and the District's media consultant Jonnie Banks regarding a letter attributed to Cassandra Clark, the project communications director for the Eden Hospital reconstruction. The item on the invoice reads: "Mtg w/Dev Mahadevan re: Cassandra's DRAFT letter to the community."

The very next day, Dec. 8, various media outlets received the piece titled, "An Open Letter to the Community: Straight Talk about the Future of our Hospitals" purportedly authored by Ratnesar. The press release initially was sent under the District's letterhead, which Banks said at the time, was a mistake, while another District Director Carole Rogers made it clear through a flurry of emails that the letter was not the opinion of the entire board. State Sen. Ellen Corbett also criticized the letter in her own press release saying Ratnesar was attempting to split the communities of Castro Valley and San Leandro over the issue of the two hospitals.

Ratnesar, in an email Monday afternoon, says he wrote the letter shortly before a trip to Australia and sought the help of Clark to make corrections. "I asked Cassandra Clark to edit the letter and forward the letter after I had approved the correction to Mr Mahadevan to be sent to the community," wrote Ratnesar.

Clark told The Citizen she spent about five minutes on the draft and "changed a few commas here and there." Clark says she has helped Ratnesar with correspondences in the past. She said their friendship goes back two decades and agreed to help "not in the capacity of her job at Eden."

Questions about the invoice were first raised during a Jan. 14 District meeting whose agenda listed only a closed session. During public comment period, Rogers asked about the existence of the Dec. 7 item insinuating Ratnesar's letter may have been written by a Sutter employee. According to the unapproved minutes of the meeting, the subject was "tabled" until Mahadevan, who was absent, returned Jan. 21.

Mahadevan told The Citizen the consulting fee should not have been charged to the District, but instead to Ratnesar. Banks also confirmed the reworking of the invoice to be presented to the board for approval Wednesday night. Clark says she never sought to be compensated for editing Ratnesar's letter and said the "assumption is absolutely false."

Clark has been involved in handling the media inquiries regarding the construction of the rebuilt Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and has been instrumental in instituting aspects of new social media techniques to cover the rebuild with a blog on the Sutter site. Click here to see an interview with Clark, then Phelps, on a local newscast.

Sutter spokesperson Stacey Wells, though, said, "Cassandra is not a Sutter Health employee but a part-time, temporary employee of Eden Medical Center." The hospital conglomerate has said the same about Ratnesar in the past, who many in the nurses union have long charged with being too cozy with Sutter. In June of last year, Ratnesar suffered a litany of catcalls from members of the audience charging a conflict of interest. Afterwards, Ratnesar said, "In my conscience, I do not believe I have a conflict of interest." At various times, supporters of saving San Leandro Hospital have attempted to stir up action to recall Ratnesar, which never fully materialized.
______________
The CiTiZEN FILE on....RATNESAR AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST 
>>>Ratnesar's Letter Ignites Firestorm of Responses, Dec. 8, 2009.   


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9 comments :

The invoice doesn't "cast doubt"; it reveals clear fraud, followed by lies attempting to cover lies. The invoice says what it says, it's very specific- there's no way in the wide world that Cassandra "changed a few commas" of a letter written by Dr. Ratnesar and had that expression of friendship show up on an invoice. Raj and Cassandra live in this community; I wish they wouldn't lie in public like this.

Who knows where Stacey Wells lives, but Ms. Wells tells a lie on Cassandra's "behalf". It's well known at the hospital and in the community that Cassandra no longer works for Eden Hospital, but for the Sutter Hospital rebuild project; there's a clear difference. Online, the Plaxo site reveals that she left Eden Medical Center's employ in 2008 and has worked for Sutter Health ever since:

http://www.plaxo.com/directory/profile/193274061931/3f85580a/Cassandra/Clark

The writer makes a mistake in saying that Clark has handled inquiries regarding the construction of the rebuilt Eden Medical Center. This new building is called "Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley"; Clark's writings are all over the award-winning online "social media program".

The Healthcare District Board has a personnel problem. Multiple employees of the District need to be fired for committing fraud and attempting to cover it up. How can this Board trust that the discussions happening in closed session, particularly involving Sutter's lawsuit against the District, will not be leaked to Sutter Health by District employees?

While I entirely agree with the two commenters above and applaud their participation, I'm disappointed they choose to comment anonymously.

Sutter's deception seems to be so blatant that a child would have little trouble seeing through it. How they so easily duped our mayor is only a mystery to those who have not attended his meetings.

I hope that any criminal action which may be going on is outed and the guilty Individuals, along with Sutter, are charged and held properly accountable.

This whole situation is veering wildly out of control. The amount of deceit going on is mind-boggling. When is someone with authority going step in and handle this blatant corruption. I feel like we're living in a third world nation.

Carole Rogers has been the biggest "leak" on the district board giving information directly to her union bosses.

Give us a break -- all sides are corrupt -- throw the bums out.

While Steven did a good job of quoting me directly in his post, the anonymous authors of the comments are completely out of line. I speak for myself, and "anonymous" has not spoken to me directly about me, my status as an employee or my role with the hospital. Relying on an outdated Plaxo account is not research. Ask me directly. I work for Eden, and I have been back on the Eden staff part time since September 2009. I focus my work on the new hospital project, including writing about the project, working with employees, neighbors, etc. I did not lie about my role with the hospital, with the district, or with helping Dr.Ratnesar as he was leaving the country. Please do not speak on my behalf or cast doubt on what I say without any knowledge, and doing so anonymously is cowardly. Dr. Ratnesar,like everyone who lives in this country, has a right to speak or write his opinion. I did not create his words. To cast suspicion with these wild conspiracy theories only takes away from a rigorous debate that must happen in any major issue such as this. Dr.Ratnesar is an intelligent, thoughtful person, and perfectly capable of writing his own thoughts on paper. The members of the ETHD board know me, know I have been a friend of Eden and the District for 20+ years, and to suggest otherwise after a lifetime of service is insulting. While I no longer live in this community (another error from our anonymous author), I still am dedicated to the people and the work of EMC, and would like to see a positive solution for San Leandro Hospital and the community. If you want to suggest that I am a liar, then I ask that you contact me directly and let's have a discussion in person. I stand by my word, openly.

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Cassie,

Thank you for joining in on a public discussion of the controversies around this issue. There's been far too much secrecy around actions regarding San Leandro Hospital. It's valuable that you're here, in a public forum.

One doesn't have to share concern about the entity who signs your checks to wonder why a public relations professional is involved at all in writing a letter which is presented to the community as a press release from an agency. Of course Dr. Ratnesar has the right to express his opinion. To represent something claimed as his opinion as an official statement from the Healthcare District or any other organization is wrong. Whether you directed that false representation or not, you are in association with it.

There is also much reason to doubt your representation that these are largely Dr. Ratnesar's words. The invoice to the District says "Mtg w/Dev Mahadevan re. Cassandra's DRAFT letter to the community". There are a number of ways that this invoice cannot be squared with the story you tell.

"...Cassandra's DRAFT letter..."; this description resembles in no way your claim that you "spent about five minutes on (Dr. Ratnesar's) draft and 'changed a few commas here and there'".

If all you did is change a few commas, why in the world would your work require a meeting with Dev? If this letter only represented an expression of Dr. Ratnesar's 1st Amendment rights, why is the District meeting about this letter the day before it goes out? Why are you associated with that meeting on that day? Why did the District involved itself in the letter's release?

You claim to want "a positive solution for San Leandro Hospital and the community." On the other hand, your public statements associate you with an outcome for SLH that District citizens do not view as either positive or a solution. This is particularly true in your association with this letter, which attacks community members desperately fighting to preserve Emergency and other badly needed acute care services at SLH.

Cassie,

Sutter Health has sued my Eden Township Healthcare District. In this lawsuit, Sutter would like to win the right to execute an option to purchase San Leandro Hospital, which the District owns. Sutter would then be expected to execute the deal they made last year with Alameda County Medical Center. The terms of this deal would close the ER, ICU, Surgery, and Acute Medical/Surgical beds at SLH.

This ER sees approximately 25,000 patients a year. Approximately half of the ER patients seen in 2008 were too ill to gain proper service from the Urgent Care unit proposed to "replace" the ER.

None of the 1,313 critically ill people seen in the ER that year would be served; they would be placed in an ambulance for a 5-to-20 minute ride to the next avaliable ER with an opening. The percentage who would survive has not been determined, but it is certain that many of these critically ill people would die during these transfers.

An offer has been made by a large California health care provider to take over operations at SLH. This offer would preserve all current SLH services and also provide tens of millions of dollars to the District. This potential suitable solution would also end Sutter's large operational losses at SLH.

After discussions took place in the wake of this offer, the head of the County Healthcare Services Agency said that "Sutter has told us that" they would block this deal from moving forward.

As a coup de grace, this lawsuit also demands that my Eden District hand over $5 million to Sutter. By taking these actions, has Sutter Health contributed to "a positive solution for San Leandro Hospital and the community"?

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