By STEVEN TAVARES
THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERThe Eden Township Healthcare District moved to fortify themselves in advance of Sutter Health's impending move announcing the future closure of San Leandro Hospital by selecting a team of negotiators, while supporters continued to call for the resignation of Boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar.
"Let's be reminded that tomorrow is Mar. 31," Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers said. "Sutter, legally at this point in time, can file with the state to close the emergency room and if we have a negotiating panel in place, at least, it shows that we are willing to talk about stopping that action in lieu of an injunction, which we are prepared to do."
Last Friday, a memo to San Leandro Hospital employees from the CEO of Eden Medical Center "assured" no announcement about the future of the facility would be made this week.
The chosen negotiating team did not satisfy supporters of keeping San Leandro Hospital open, who objected to the inclusion of Ratnesar, whose name was picked out of a hat due to the beguiling "Rule of Necessity" used to ensure a quorum of boardmembers. Ratnesar was not present at Tuesday's special meeting. Ratnesar has not yet responded to an inquiry about his absence late Tuesday night. (UPDATE: Wednesday morning Ratnesar told The Citizen, "I have no intention of resigning" and indicated last week he would not be attending Tuesday's meeting because of prior work-related events.)
The District's lawyers have concluded four of the five members of the board have some sort of conflict of interest within the situation. Only Dvorsky has been deemed free of any entangling circumstances. He, along with Ratnesar and Sawhney will conduct negotiating with Sutter, if and when they should occur, but many found fault with one of the targets of the District's lawsuit Sutter participating on the panel.
"If he was here, he should recuse himself, at the minimum," said San Leandro Hospital Nurse Carol Barazi. Despite the awkwardness of allowing member once deemed to have conflicts to be allowed to be reinstated by the drawing of lots, the District's Counsel Gerry Hinkley "I know it seems irrational, but all have debilitating conflicts of interest." He also added the "Rule of Necessity" is recognized by California law.
California Nurses Association Representative Mike Brannan, though, told the board Ratnesar's situation deserved some distinction among the other alleged conflicts of interest. "It really seems like Dr. Ratnesar should be held to some higher standard because he is as, Carol [Barazi] mentioned, part of the lawsuit, part of the reason why there is a lawsuit." Brannan also presented the board with a petition calling for the Ratnesar's resignation.
The District's lawsuit against Sutter, filed Mar. 10, asserts, among other things, Ratnesar, former boardmember Dr. Francisco Rico and current Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney gained financial benefits from Sutter at the time of the 2007 agreement giving San Leandro Hospital two years to become solvent.
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