Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's Now Or Never For San Leandro Hospital

Feb. 9, 2012 | Sutter Health is operating in the shadows again.

When San Leandro Councilman Michael Gregory inadvertently used the word "settlement" during last Monday's city council while updating the situation with San Leandro Hospital and its imminent closure by Sutter Health, he undermined the hospital behemoths desire to maneuver in secret negotiations.

When it comes to public issues, clandestine talks are never in the community's best interests. Never. Sutter and the attorney's for the Eden Township Healthcare District have been talking settlement over the past few weeks. Sutter receives title to San Leandro Hospital, the District pays no damages. The facility maintains a semblance of an emergency room and the Alameda County Medical Center runs the acute rehabilitation facility.

Yet, like the Death Star or any other cinematic monster causing havoc on humanity, Sutter clearly has a soft underbelly and that is an institutional aversion to even the smallest amount of bad publicity

In a nutshell: it's the deal Sutter wanted from the very beginning--no less. It's also a deal that renders everything done by supporters of the Save San Leandro Hospital cause as one colossal waste of the last two years.

To blame the board of the Eden Township Healthcare District would be incorrect. They are merely running out of ammunition against an adversary that undermined the direction of the previous board to such depths that no amount of legal expertise could have gotten them out of this hole. Sutter's lawyers are good and they have always been good. They also have at their disposal a tried-and-true legal strategy for closing down their competition in other parts of Northern California. It worked in Marin County, just as it did the trick in San Francisco and Santa Rosa.

Yet, like the Death Star or any other cinematic monster causing havoc on humanity, Sutter clearly has a soft underbelly and that is an institutional aversion to even the smallest amount of bad publicity.

In the case of San Leandro Hospital there is absolutely no doubt the reason we are still talking about this situation nearly three years later is due to the outpouring of unified public sentiment and hard work to keep their hospital and its emergency room open indefinitely.

Sutter is deeply afraid of public meetings like the one that occurred Wednesday night and featuring a few hundred residents. If the District's calls for a gathering of the faithful they can be counted on to fill the hall. That clarion call, though, has not been happening enough lately. The relative calm coupled with the winding down of the District's legal avenues is a situation ripe for Sutter to impose its will quickly and without regard for the human element of its actions.

There was private talk last night about reaching out to members of the Occupy Oakland movement. One person I spoke with said labor leaders have discussed such an strategy. The San Leandro Hospital issue and the Occupy Oakland struggle have an enormous link: strong support from the California Nurses Association. We must remember that this story is also a labor issue. Not only will people's emergency care be compromised, but hundreds of health care workers will be out of a job. A representative from CNA last night urged the District board to make the negotiations with Sutter public and allow a the community a seat at the table.

If the Occupy Oakland movement are willing to support union workers last month at a licorice factory in Union City, there assuredly would be more than happy to support what is one of the pillars of financial inequity in this country: the lack of health care for all. In light of recent bad press, Occupy Oakland may actually need Save San Leandro Hospital more than you need them.

Although the District cannot seem to get the narrative of San Leandro Hospital pitch perfect, it is actually very simple. A non-profit health care provider with over $800 million in profit seeks to close a competing community hospital that specializes in providing care for the uninsured and poorest among us. That's the story and you don't even need to mention out of that $800 million, most county officials say a yearly subsidy of only $6 million is needed to keep the facility in operation.

The end of the line is clearly within sight, but no amount of Sutter's political and financial power works when the overwhelming pressure of the people is brandished. It worked before and it can work again. The only difference is the community has no reason now to save resources. It's time to empty the playbook. Summon Occupy Oakland and their righteous revolutionaries to support your already impressive community leaders and put Sutter's practices again in the spotlight and watch them scurry under the rocks.


Steve, good article; at least your keeping public informed as to what is happening at SL Hospital. From what I hear, possible outcome is just as was suggested in 2009. Your right by saying the last two years have been a complete waste of time-too many egos involved. With CNA, too many pampared nurses who earn $140,000 a year along with $40 k in benefits and they are still not happy. Talk to the unemployed who would love to earn what nurses earn, mighgt keep them off the streets. Bottom line-over $3 million spent by district to fight Sutter in the courts and they have three strikes against them and are now waiting for fourth strike. District should have settled long ago. Tony Santos

$140,000 a year? Where do you get that? Starting salary at any Sutter hospital is $36 - $40 per hour for a RN. Less than a Journeyman electrician or a plumber, with a lots more life and death responsibility. Pampered? Required to work overtime, get exposed to body fluids and excrement, put up with cranky patients because the are sick and can't help it. Dirty needle sticks, depression when you lose a patient, management that keeps threatening your job, and no respect. When were you hospitalized last Tony Santos? Please do not get admitted to San Leandro Hospital or you will get an earfull!

Tony You should have attended the public hearing last Wednesday and spoke those words and you would have seen how popular your opinion is -from the 200+ people who attended. NOT.

The district's lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank.

The stupid ETHD fired the lawyer who told them they couldn't win. What a terrible mismanagement of money and the public's trust.

Well Tony I can at least complement you on putting your name on your diatribe. I guess now you know why you are no longer Mayor, you continue to misinform the people who originally elected you, and you still are a loser, get over it. I had a doctor tell me a quote, " QUITTERS NEVER WIN AND WINNERS NEVER QUIT " so that is why we here at the hospital fight to keep the hospital open, unlike you we are concerned about the people here in our district which stretches from Oakland to Hayward and San Leandro to Castro Valley, and unlike you we dont turn our backs on people who are in a position where they do not have medical insurance, such as the ones who are unemployed, think back on your term in office just how many companies left San Leandro and now you want to have the Hospital close, thousands of people who had jobs when you where Mayor who are now unemployed are the ones we see in our ER since they no longer have insurance or a primary physician. So I would like to say thanks for your term as Mayor but looking around there is no way I can thank you for anything, you are not only a poor excuse as a Mayor but as a human being as well. John Kalafatich ( PAPA JOHN )

I'm all for occupy wall street helping us. Just don't break shit!!!

The idiots have spent more than two million dollars on this effort that has been a lose lose for the community from the beginning. Think of how many people would have benefitted from the two million dollars. Quit now. Get out of the way.

The first law firm was part of the illegal negotiations between Sutter and the Board, then lied about it. They are in line for malpractice when this is over.

Malpractice. You are a dreamer or just a fool. How can you sue for malpractice when their advice proved correct. Wake up.

How do you know it was correct? Did you sit in on discussions also?

There advice was correct -- because the ETHD has lost. They've lost. That's how I know it was correct.

Thomas Clarke, what benefit is worth more than life?? the goal of keeping the hospital open was not giving benefits, what benefits are you talking about, were you possibly hoping to get some sort of benefit???? And what branch of Sutter do you work for, and the Board has no idiots as you claim, you havent evidently read the mission statement of the ETHD, the only thing I can say in your defense even though you are uncaring for the people in our community is that you at least put your name behind your words, so if you can name which one benefit is better than saving peoples lives and treating the sick and injured please let us know what it is John Kalafatich ( PAPA JOHN )

John it's simple. People who support sutter are the people that truly believe that healthcare is just a business. People who do not support sutter are people who realize that healthcare is caring taking care of the sick and not just the insured but all who are in need. It's apples and oranges and we will never convince tge first group how wrong they are.

Excellent opinion piece by Steven; we could all use some encouragement at this point. Nice to hear from the amoral Sutter fellaters who apparently would have been fine if San Leandro Hospital's ER, ICU and other acute care services had closed in October 2009, as Sutter originally told Hospital caregivers.

One thing I would quarrel with is Steven's view that Sutter folds in the face of bad publicity. For goodness sakes, last year Sutter locked out their nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, one of the temporary (aka SCAB) replacement nurses made a highly unusual treatment error which directly killed a patient, Sutter got extremely bad press from the needless death, then Sutter locked their nurses out again a few months later!

Yes, Sutter was forced to reverse their original plans and rebuild hospitals they wanted to close in San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Castro Valley, but in those cases there would have been a smoking black hole where the hospitals had been, leaving Sutter with all the blame from enraged communities. In the case of our only Hospital in town, Alameda County Medical Center could take over operations and close services as Sutter demands, allowing the Death Star to spread the blame around.

You can see Pat Fry, his Sutter Health Board, many of their executive officers, the attorneys they employ to close vital health care services, and others involved in this sordid tale at the link:


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