Sept. 26, 2011 | Sutter Health, the operator of San Leandro Hospital, and the Alameda County Medical Center acknowledged in correspondences the controversial lease they signed in July 2009 is expired and discussed renewal of the agreement after current litigation between Sutter and the Eden Township Healthcare District concludes, according to emails obtained by the nurses’ union.
A copy of an amended lease executed in November 2009 also details an unknown strategy by ACMC to procure $25 million in financing from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for renovation of San Leandro Hospital for acute rehabilitation services.
The California Nurses’ Association requested the information last July from ACMC under the Freedom of Information Act. A second request in August, they say, has not been answered by ACMC.
An email exchange dated May 2 between general counsels for ACMC and Sutter depict a definitive willingness to renew the lease while giving intimate insight into their discussions with Alameda County officials.
“Please rest assure that ACMC’s Board of Trustees is completely supportive of management’s firm determination to proceed with this transaction, regardless of the political theater that may attend it,” Doug Habig, ACMC’s general counsel, wrote May 2 to his counterpart at Sutter, Florence Di Benedetto.
“The ACMC Board’s position on this matter is being communicated to the Board of Supervisors. In the near future, I would like to discuss renewing the Lease Agreement for San Leandro Hospital that expired last year. We want to have a current agreement in place when the appeals process is exhausted or the District comes to its senses.”
In another email by Habig to Di Benedetto dated May 9 the ACMC attorney again reserved condescension toward the District’s legal dispute with Sutter over title of San Leandro Hospital.
“Despite the fact that the matter is currently stalled due to litigation by the District,” wrote Habig, “ACMC believes that a renewal of the lease agreement will reinforce the commitment of the parties to carry out the transaction at the earliest possible date, after all legal appeals by the District have been exhausted or some sense of reasonableness overcomes them.”
An email April 29 also refers to a conversation between ACMC, Sutter and the county where Di Benedetto, Sutter’s attorney, writes “Seems like everyone thinks that they speak on behalf of ACMC.” The email names Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan and Alameda County Health Care Services Director Alex Briscoe as privy to the conversation.
Although the legal wrangling between Sutter and the District appeared to be in a holding pattern for much of this year, the emails show much has been going on outside the public's view. In a June interview with The Citizen, Chan alluded to the possibility the lease between Sutter and ACMC to operation San Leandro Hospital had lapsed. The emails show Chan was more than aware of the leases expiration as early as late April. A strategy by ACMC to reconfigure San Leandro Hospital with $25 million in financing from HUD, as detailed in the amended November 2009 lease was unknown until CNA’s request for information.
The possibility of a federal dollars far in excess of the $3-6 million yearly subsidy needed to operate the hospital in its current composition, has opponents of ACMC and Sutter wondering if the same financing can be applied to maintaining the facility in its current form.
The set of emails also underscore recent comments by county officials portraying potential outcomes with San Leandro Hospital and ACMC as a win-win for the community. Despite widespread contempt for Sutter by supporters of keeping San Leandro Hospital open, the emails foster a belief county officials continue to be fixated on reviving a proposal to reconfigure the hospital under a potpourri of limited services. Such a plan would also feature an emergency room, general services, in addition to acute rehab transferred over due to the eventual closing of nearby Fairmont Hospital.
Typically known as the “hybrid plan,” this proposal has been floated about in various forms for over the past two years. The community, though, has shown waning approval for the plan and, instead, appear intent on pushing out Sutter from San Leandro Hospital by any means necessary.
A counter proposal to the growing depletion of acute rehab beds in the county was presented to the District Board of Directors last Wednesday by an attorney representing St. Rose Hospital. The underfunded Hayward facility, which has offered to join the District and operate San Leandro Hospital by tapping into a larger pool of federal and state dollars, said it can begin offering up to 130 rehab beds on its campus within the next three years. St. Rose’s offer would help offset the loss beds at Fairmont that the county aims to replace at San Leandro Hospital. St. Rose would use it underperforming skilled nurses facility, which it intends to close, to begin potentially housing acute rehab patients.