Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan has
threatened dissolution of the health district
for differing reasons since 2012.
There is not a need for the embattled Eden Health District to be dismantled and its assets distributed to various health care agencies, said the local government body tasked with drawing and maintaining the boundaries of local jurisdictions in Alameda County.
“Based on the final study, I don’t think the district warrants dissolution,” said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who also serves on the Alameda Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo).
The board voted 3-2 to accept a report that called the dissolution of the Eden Health District “unwarranted” without a plan to continue its current services, which include offering grants to local health care-related non-profits and services.
The Eden Health District, which represents Hayward, San Leandro and unincorporated Alameda County, has been under siege by some local officials repeatedly calling for its dissolution because of a recent history of low grant allocations and high administrative costs.
Elected officials like Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan and Assemblymember Rob Bonta, similarly, have called for the district's demise because it no longer oversees a hospital facility after losing operating control within the last decade of Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and San Leandro Hospital.
Legislation authored by Bonta and signed into law last fall targeted the Eden Health District’s inverted finances by requiring it to allocate 80 percent of its annual operating budget toward grant-giving and only 20 percent for administrative costs. The district said its grant-giving abilities were severely hampered by a lawsuit it lost seeking to keep control of San Leandro Hospital.
LAFCo commissioners, however, were not swayed by calls for the Eden Health District’s demise during a hearing Tuesday night in Castro Valley, but clear support exists for amending the district’s “sphere of influence,” along with prescribing certain terms and conditions to rectify inefficiencies within the Eden Health District.
“It’s been proven 14,000 times over that the district is providing a service that maybe diluted at the county level,” said Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold, a LAFco member and former Dublin councilmember. “It always worries me when a bigger agency takes over things because red tape gets involved and it doesn’t seem as efficient as it could be.”
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, also a LAFCo member, and another commissioner, Pleasanton attorney Sblend Sblendorio, voted against accepting the report, but did not voice clear support for dissolution. Sblendorio called the district’s services important to the community, but lacking efficiency in government. He would not support dissolution if the plan included transferring the district’s assets to a hospital.
Haggerty urged to further delay the matter in order for the county to analyze a proposal made by the chief of staff for Supervisor Chan that would utilize “inter-governmental transfers” to locate matching funds for the district’s health care grants. Support for the plan on the LAFCo board was unanimous, but it remains unclear whether the offer will materialize after the strategy backed by Chan was based on dissolution.
Early on during Tuesday’s hearing, Dave Brown, chief of staff for Chan, told the LAFCo board the "inter-governmental transfer” proposal would create additional funding for safety net hospitals. Brown, though, said such a proposal would take a few months to create.
Tom Pico, a non-voting alternative on the LAFCo board and former Pleasanton mayor, was critical of the county and its slapdash proposal. During a LAFCo meeting in February, Brown also discussed the use of intergovernmental transfers in order to leverage the district's assets.
“It appears to me that it’s really the county that wants dissolution of the district and they should have come up with a proposal earlier if that’s what they really wanted to do,” said Pico,
In fact, the issue of the Eden Health District vehemently refusing to allocate some of its assets to San Leandro Hospital beginning in November 2012 is what led Chan to threaten it with dissolution.
Eden Health District officials balked at Chan’s insistence, saying its finances had been significantly crippled by a legal defeat at the hands of Sutter Health over title of San Leandro Hospital. Eden Health District was ordered to pay Sutter Health $2 million annually over the next 10 years for damages related to the lawsuit. Chan like many other local officials had originally urged the then-Eden Township Health District to sue Sutter Health over the hospital.
“We’re totally open to working with the county," Roxann Lewis, the chair of the Eden Health District Board of Directors, said following the meeting. "but it’s been very difficult when you’re constantly being under attack,”
In addition to Bonta’s bill, Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk authored legislation last year directly calling for the district’s dissolution and the mayors of San Leandro and Hayward have been vocal opponents of the district. San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter has advocated for dissolving the district and transferring its assets to support San Leandro Hospital.