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Local Leaders Trumpet Plan to Merge St. Rose and San Leandro Hospitals

San Leandro Patch, 5/18/11

By Jill Replogle
San Leandro Patch
May 18, 2011

Some 250 people came to a town hall meeting where local leaders unveiled a plan they say could keep the hospital's emergency room open.
A nearly three-year-old campaign to preserve San Leandro Hospital's emergency room was re-energized Tuesday night when local leaders publicly unveiled a plan to merge its administration with Hayward's St. Rose Hospital.

Sutter Health
, the large Northern California healthcare nonprofit, currently operates San Leandro Hospital and has plans to close its emergency room and lease the hospital as a rehab center to the Alameda County Medical Center.  

Under the counter-proposal presented by local leaders on Tuesday, the Eden Township Healthcare District  would maintain ownership of San Leandro Hospital and add St. Rose to the district.

“We believe strongly that we can operate a combined St. Rose-San Leandro Hospital, under the leadership of the Eden Township Healthcare District, and do that in a financially responsible way,” St. Rose president Michael Mahoney told a crowd of some 250 people gathered at San Leandro's new senior center, less than a football field away from the beleaguered hospital.

The meeting was hosted by state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, Mayor Stephen Cassidy, the California Nurses Association and San Leandro Hospital doctors.

Cassidy said the city was "150 percent in support of this merger, [and] in support of keeping San Leandro open as an acute emergency care facility open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Cassidy and other speakers emphasized the importance of having a local, easily accessible hospital in the city in case of a devastating earthquake or other disaster. In such a situation, the new Kaiser hospital under construction in San Leandro would be busy attending to its own patients, Cassidy said.

If there’s a disaster, "the Kaiser patients don’t want the rest of us showing up at the hospital too,” the mayor said.

San Leandro Hospital is at the center of a legal dispute between Sutter and the Eden Township Healthcare District. Sutter signed a contract with the district in 2008 to operate the hospital. The contract included an option to purchase.

The following year, Sutter signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alameda County Medical Center to lease out the hospital for county rehabilitation services and close its emergency room.

Lawsuits have been filed by both the healthcare district and Sutter, and the matter has yet to be resolved.

In the meantime, however, Sutter may no longer have a willing lessee for its proposed rehab facility.

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan announced at Tuesday night's meeting that the County Board of Supervisors had taken a unanimous vote to pull the agreement between the county's medical center and Sutter. While the board doesn't have direct oversight of the medical center, it appoints the trustees who govern the publicly-funded entity.

Chan also seemed to send a warning to Sutter at the meeting, reminding the crowd that as a nonprofit corporation, Sutter receives tax breaks.

"Tax breaks come with an obligation to provide charity care be good community partners,” Chan said.

In a statement emailed to Patch prior to the meeting, Sutter representatives said the company had "no interest in relinquishing our agreement with [Eden Township Healthcare District] regarding San Leandro Hospital or in pursuing joint governance of San Leandro Hospital.”

They said they expected the healthcare district “to honor its obligations" under the terms of the agreement regarding the hospital's ownership and operation.

Nevertheless, proponents of the St. Rose plan believe enough public momentum could sway the hospital's future.

"Any nonprofit will respond to community pressure," Mike Brannan, labor representative for the California Nurses Association, said at the meeting.

Brannan then held up newly printed posters reading "I support the St. Rose Plan" and "Save San Leandro Hospital," and asked the crowd to put them up in their homes and pass them around to neighbors.

The nurses' association also distributed pre-written postcards addressed to Sutter CEO Patrick E. Fry asking that he support the St. Rose plan

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