Thursday, January 7, 2010

Plan for Hospital Includes 10% Pay Cut for Workers

By Steven Tavares
The Citizen
San Leandro Hospital workers may need to take a 10 percent pay cut to keep the facility open according to a possible plan outlined by Mayor Tony Santos during Monday's city council meeting.

“I'm not too sure the employees are going to like this information,” said Santos.

The proposal, alluded to on many occasions and not created by the mayor, would garner an annual savings of $4.75 million from the pay cut and keep the hospital open between 4-5 years, according to Santos.

Rumors of a possible deal to save the hospital have persisted for two months primarily from comments regarding its existence by Santos. He would not confirm the entities behind the proposal and both Eden Township Healthcare District boardmembers Carole Rogers and Dr. Vin Sawhney have repeatedly denied any knowledge of the plan.

It is believed the proposal was drawn up by the former District counsel Craig Cannizzo days before his firing last December. At a District meeting to interview a replacement to the board in November, District CEO Dev Mahadevan also mentioned to The Citizen of the possibility of a 10 percent pay cut for hospital hospital employees.

The notion those involved with the fate of the hosptial are meeting in secret is discouraging to the labor group representing many of the nurses at the facility.

“If Mayor Santos is indeed negotiating with parties that can decide the fate of the hospital he needs to reveal who he is meeting with and open up the discussions," said Shum Preston, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association. "The community has not been well served thus far by secret negotiations. There is broad-based, near universal support in the community to save San Leandro Hospital as an acute-care facility with an emergency room, and any discussions must represent this view through an open forum of stakeholders, including patient and community representatives."

Santos told the council he received the proposal Dec. 17 which was the day after Dr. Vin Sawhney first attempted to fire Cannizzo. He also says no parties have agreed to the proposal, but he sees it as an "opportunity to keep this thing going."

To keep the hospital open under the proposal, the city of San Leandro would need to contribute $500,000 annually to the deal. Santos said if the parties involved bridged the gap within their dispute, he would likely bring the proposal to the city council or call a special meeting.

Under the plan, the hospital would take on a "hybrid-like" configuration combining surgical, rehabilitation and emergency room services. Like previous plans, a yearly subsidy from an unknown source of between $3-5 million is needed. This is lower than the $6-9 million generally believed to be secured to keep the hospital in operation.

Santos later attempted to again discuss the possible downside of the District counterclaim against Sutter filed last week. “Short of the result of binding arbitration, the hospital could effectively be closed on July 1,” he said.

San Leandro City Councilman Jim Prola supported the District legal move saying, “I don't know where this leads or whether it will be successful, but they are taking action to try and save our hospital.”

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I'm not going to comment on the Mayor Santos impromptu comments on keeping San Leandro Hospital open. However, last year I suggested to him that he and the city council take a pay cut. I followed up with the letter in June to the San Leandro Times stating:

"You cannot ask others to sacrifice when you refuse to do so. Leadership is by example. The city council should take an immediate 10% pay cut out of respect for, and solidarity with, the sacrifices their constituents make every day."

The Mayor's response was my idea was was "ridiculous." The only "sacrifice" the Mayor and City Council agreed to in the budget for fiscal year 2009-10 was to give up their free meals before council meetings.

In my last year on the school board, 2008, it became clear that Sacramento was going to impose massive cuts to K-12 grade public education, and cuts would have to occur locally. In advance of these cuts, I gave up my monthly board member stipend.

I'm incredibly disappointed and disturbed by this ongoing improper intervention by my city's Mayor. These statements have zero potential to help the situation.

Tony has been stating "knowledge" of potential deals for many, many months. It is causing him to look foolish. Speaking as Sutter Health's sock puppet is an unwise thing to do when you're running for office in today's San Leandro.

Finally, the lack of respect these statements show for the dedicated caregivers at the Hospital is astonishing. Mayor Santos hasn't (and wouldn't) say this to City workers, but he's willing to do this as thirdhand proxy for anonymous hatchet men?

Mayor, I'm asking you to respect yourself and your constituents. Please stop this.

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