EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why San Leandro Hospital Should Be The Next Occupy Battleground

SAVE SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL
Dec. 27, 2011 | The fight to keep San Leandro Hospital was about the 99 percent versus the obscenely rich way before the notion became an unbelievably effective and accurate description of the financial unfairness raging in this country.

Sutter Health’s vigorous attempts to shutter the community hospital over the past three years despite strong opposition from a well-organized group of nurses and community leaders mimics the fight of occupiers across the country. They like, those, for instance, in Oakland have been steadfast and largely successful in batting back the enormity of their enemy to a stalemate.

The backbone of the movement is to radically loosen the grip of corporate American and the super rich from prospering at levels incredibly incommensurate with what they provide to society.

The issue at San Leandro Hospital is much more than economics and simple business math, but specifically about racism, elitism and a corporation prospering on the public dime without giving back to the community.

Sutter Health is a non-profit health care provider that reaped over $800 million in 2010. San Leandro Hospital is one of 23 hospitals it operates within a near monopoly in Northern California. Sutter’s tax-exempt status comes theoretically from the idea its benefit comes in exchange for providing care to the region. This fact, though, conveniently drops to the wayside in Sutter’s calculation.

In San Leandro, most heatlh experts believe an annual subsidy ranging between $6-$10 million would keep the hospital running in its present form as a general acute care facility with a 24-hour emergency room. The small subsidy in light of Sutter’s $800 million in profits is main rallying cry for supporters of the hospital. Sutter says it pools the network’s profits and readily applies it among its facilities, but who really cares about accounting procedures when 30,000 people a year will have to travel further for access to emergency care.

The reason for Sutter’s ambivalence is simple, but sickening. It doesn’t want a hospital in San Leandro competing with its $300 million expenditure of a rebuilt Eden Medical Center over the hill in Castro Valley. The yet-to-be-completed Eden, rising like the unfinished Death Star, will offer fewer services and contain less hospital beds at a time when the county is struggling to find more capacity. Sutter made $800 million last year because it runs a good business. Less competition means higher profits. A study this year in the Los Angeles Times found the average price of a hospital stay in Northern California vastly outpaces care in Southern California. The reason: Sutter’s monopoly in the North.

The focus on Castro Valley and the Tri-Valley with its higher income payer mix is a big drawing card for Sutter. It also purposefully excludes demographics who truly need health care more than ever.

Ever travelled to Castro Valley, Dublin and Pleasanton? On a sunny day, be sure to wear shades or risk blindness from the sun rays bouncing off the white skin of its population. Many of the current patients at San Leandro Hospital are poor and without health insurance. A vast majority aren’t even from San Leandro, but from Oakland. Critics have long accused Sutter of medical redlining. In essence, sorting out the poor and indigent from their facilities to other county-run hospitals, while courting more affluent customers. It’s a course of action that is particularly distasteful, but apparently a prerequisite action for any 1 percenter of any consequence.

Occupy Wall Street protesters loudly complain of corporations gaming the system in Washington. They point to the lack of transparency in Congress, where the super rich seemingly write their own legislation into law through lawmaker bought and paid for many times over. This not only happened with Sutter at San Leandro Hospital, but has occurred in similar fashions in San Francisco, Marin and Santa Rosa .

Elected health board district boards are notoriously corrupt partly due to the fact nearly all of them are former hospital administrators, doctors and some nurses. They have an inherent conflict when dealing with entities like Sutter while purportedly acting in the public’s name.

Even though a state appellate court denied the Eden Township Healthcare Distict’s attempt to stop Sutter from gaining title to San Leandro Hospital, the ground work for the complaint was laid years ago by Sutter officials who bore a hole into the previous district board and downloaded a virus that unfortunately may never be eradicated even with the best intentions in mind.

For instance, the same man employed to run Eden Medical Center also headed the Eden Township Healthcare District while it negotiated two contentious agreements in 2004 and 2008. One more time: The same person employed by a health care behemoth also dabbled in the business affair of a government entity.

Legally-speaking, the likelihood of proving this executive wore two hats and willfully corrupted the decision-making process is very low. In reality, we know Sutter executive George Bischalaney was in the room during negotiations and fielded questions from board members crafting the deal who, themselves, were known as member with known allegiances to Sutter. Elected officials like Dr. Frank Rico, Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar and Suzanne Barba represent modern-day Judas’ who acquiesced to Sutter’s threats to build a competing hospital in the Tri-Valley instead of rebuilding Eden, instead of suing them for breach of contract.

If the current, more public-friendly board cannot ultimately save San Leandro Hospital, it is of no fault of theirs, but the predecessor's cowardice that dig the District a hole they could never possibly dig themselves out.

The one percent has stolen the convictions of ordinary Americans for too long and the Occupy movement have succeeded in shining a light on the corruption of the corporations. Occupy Oakland has led the way in taking the fight to the Port of Oakland to extract an ounce of flesh. Occupy Cal has shown how public and higher education is being gutted for those interested in gaining an affordable education.

San Leandro Hospital’s fight against Sutter represents the third rail in our disgust: the shocking lack of health care for a vast majority of Americans. People in this country should not have to decide between paying the rent and buying medication. People in the East Bay shouldn’t lose access to a hospital solely because of the color of their skin or the end ledger in the checking account. It's time to Occupy Health Care.

15 comments :

Steven – I know you offer all opinion and few facts in your articles. While much of your vitriol again is misinformed in this piece, I must take issue with your shameful allegations of racism. This is reprehensible.
Clearly you’ve never walked into a Sutter Health hospital. You not only mischaracterizes Sutter Health, but also our caregivers who tend to a very diverse patient population -- all of whom receive the same level of care regardless of their ability to pay. Happy New Year.
Stacey Wells
Sutter Health East Bay

I concur with Stacey. The question is how best to operate SL Hospital. SL Hospital has always operated as a private hospital and does so without any government subsidies. Further, SL Hospital has never been, nor ever had, a trauma center. I once had a professional health care expert tell me that if his mother had a heart attack, he would prefer she go to highland before she be taken to SL. To best of my knowledge, the question never was about "closing" the hospital, it was about reducing ER services, which could be gotten elsewhere, and creating an "urgent" care unit. No one would be turned away from being treated. The fourth floor, which is not in use, would be turned into a Rehab unit. Beds would still be available and would house patients. Dr. adler visited me and wanted me to support a "hospital tax" of up to $300 a year. The tax would only apply to San Leandro residents. I opposed this and told the Dr. so. I told everyone I would support a tax provided it was district wide; I discussed this with a couple of Hayward Councilmembers ,the district runs well into Hayward and Oakland; I was told they would not support a tax unless St Rose benifitted from the tax. A district wide tax went no where. again, chris cannizzo had made tentative suggestion on settling dispute which went no where. Fact is Sutter has won and now it must answer as to where it wants to take the hospital. If anyone has this answer, let us all know. Bottom line is: not all Sutter's fault and those who caused some of the calamity are now quiet. Tony Santos

Mr Tavares article is "dead on correct." Stacy and Tony are need of a little "reality check." They might wonder why San Leandro gets so many E.R. visits per year, and it aint because Highland is so preferable apparently.
My question is why a private corporation continues to spit in the face of citizens of the East Bay and politicians alike? They make all the rules, profit like thieves, and laugh all the way to the bank while we residents lose services and suffer.
A company with morals would care about it's fellow mankind and DEDICATE itself to ensuring services for all. But, in district after district, Sutter Health attempts to close services and breeds contempt from anyone with a conscience. Just ask Santa Rosa, Marin, and San Francisco about corporate greed. "I'm sure that they have a tale or two.
My advice? Despite living in Castro Valley for over 30 years, and using Eden Medical Center as my hospital, I will boycott Sutter Health whenever possible. I suggest that others do the same. Why should my hard earned insurance dollars go to an immoral corporate behemoth? Afterall, I'm part of that 99% I guess since I don't earn a million dollars like so many of the Sutter pencil pushers. That must be easier when you don't have to pay taxes like the rest of us.
In the meantime, maybe Sutter health will have an civic minded epiphany, and do the right thing by allowing the St Rose takeover. But, I guess I'm just dreaming out loud, right Mr Fry?
Tony Baloney Santos, maybe I'll see ya at Highland...right?
Mark Phillips
Castro Valley

We've all heard it at eden -- if sutter had their way they would have build their hospital in dublin.

I never mentioned anything about employees at Sutter Hospitals turning away minorities. That's clearly illegal. Evidence of medical redlining by Sutter is not only present in San Leandro, but also in San Francisco. The racism is not overt, but clearly lurking.

Mark, truth is if you have an emergency, Highland would be best for you over San Leandro Hospital; that is if you want a chance to survive a potential heart attack-SL has no trauma center for heavens sake; in fact, I have needed ER services on two occasions-once I went to Kaiser Fremont and the next time Kaiser Hayward. I received far better treatment than I would have at SL. Tony Santos

Trauma Centers for Trauma, Stroke Centers for Strokes, Children's Hospital for Children, Cardiac Hospitals for Heart Attacks, Obstetrical Hospitals for Labor and Delivery etc...

In a true emergency, please call 911 and let EMS take you to the correct place.

HEY SANTOS YOU BIG LOSER, NO WONDER YOU LOST THE ELECTION FOR MAYOR, YOU WOULDNT EVEN STAND UP FOR THE HOSPITAL IN YOUR CITY NOW YOU MAKE THESE UNWARRANTED REMARKS ABOUT SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL, WELL I NOT ONLY WORK THERE BUT I HAD A HEART ATTACK SEVERAL YEARS BACK AND HERE I AM WRITING A REPLY TO YOUR IGNORANT RANTING. DO YOU IN YOUR PEA BRAIN REMEMBER DURING A RALLY TO KEEP THE HOSPITAL OPEN AT CITY HALL, WHEN I ASKED YOU WHY DIDNT I SEE YOU OR HEAR YOU SPEAKING UP FOR THE HOSPITAL, WELL YOUR REMARK WAS THIS WASNT A CITY MATTER, WHAT A WORM. ITS PROBABLY GOOD YOU DIDNT COME TO SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL SINCE WE DO NOT HAVE A VETERINARIAN ON STAFF, BUT WE COULD HAVE GIVEN YOU A RABIES SHOT WHICH YOU PROBABLY NEED.WELL IF YOU DONT REMEMBER THE CONVERSATION MAYBE YOU WILL REMEMBER THE NAME. PAPA JOHN ( AKA JOHN KALAFATICH )

John's comments are another reason to skip SLH for your healthcare.

WRONG AGAIN, AND AT LEAST I HAVE THE GUTS TO POST MY NAME, I REPEAT I MAY NOT EVEN BE HERE IF I HADNT GONE TO THE ER AT SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL WHEN I HAD MY HEART ATTACK. SO WHEN YOU GET UP THE COURAGE TO INCLUDE YOUR NAME THEN YOU MIGHT BE WORTH LISTENING TO. YOURS TRULY JOHN KALAFATICH ( PAPA JOHN )

Apparently the rumor around town is the city of san Leandro is gearing up to fight sutter from eliminating emergency services.

Another reason Cassidy trumps little baby Santos.

The anonymous commenter from Dec. 27th is factually incorrect. The ACMC proposal to take over the current Hospital building would turn away patients seking Emergency services. An Urgent Care Center would be open only from 7 am to 7 pm. In addition, it would not have the equipment necessary to treat acutely ill patients, which makes up nearly half of SLH's ER population. All nighttime patients, as well as all patients at risk of death, would have to be loaded into an ambulance and taken to the nearest hospital with an open acute ER bed, which may take up to 20 minutes.

What if you or a family member were having a heart attack, brain aneurysm, or another life-threatening illness?

Post a Comment