Letter sparks a war of words over San Leandro Hospital

Rajendra Ratnesar, chairman of the Eden Township Hospital District board, released “An Open Letter to the Community” to local media Tuesday, stating that efforts to save San Leandro Hospital are threatening all hospitals in the district.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett and board member Carole Rogers responded with sharply worded letters of there own.  Click below to read the letters…

An Open Letter to the Community

From Rajendra Ratnesar, M.D.

Straight Talk about the Future of our Hospitals

This past year our area hospitals have experienced the greatest challenges in their history. We are facing a state deadline to rebuild Eden Medical Center, while struggling to find a solution for San Leandro Hospital. Despite efforts to boost business and invest heavily in new technology, San Leandro Hospital maintains an average daily census of 50 patients and suffers devastating financial losses that cannot be sustained over time.

Our efforts to save San Leandro Hospital have been substantial, and the local community has voiced their support for the hospital and caregivers. But that is not enough.

Our 2008 agreement with Sutter Health gives Sutter the legal right to take ownership of San Leandro Hospital. It is our wish to work with Sutter and Alameda County Medical Center to find a regional solution that addresses the complex issues faced by all of our hospitals, and find the right mix of services that the community needs and will use.

Recent efforts by two District Board members are stopping that progress and seriously threatening the future of all of our hospitals. In their well-intentioned attempt to save San Leandro Hospital, they are posing a serious threat to San Leandro Hospital, Eden Hospital, the future Sutter Medical Center in Castro Valley, and services at Alameda County Medical Center.  The District has been sued by Sutter Health which is seeking to enforce the 2008 agreement by Sutter Health forcing the District to deliver and convey title of San Leandro Hospital to Sutter.  Sutter Health is also seeking delay damages in excess of $5,000,000 due to the District’s alleged breach of the 2008 agreement.

What is happening?

The two Board members, encouraged by vocal supporters and labor unions in San Leandro, are secretly attempting to have the District attempt to rescind the agreement with  Sutter Health which was approved by the District after five public meetings in 2007 and  which lead to Sutter’s commitment to rebuild Eden and support San Leandro Hospital. They wish to undo the agreement despite legal advice from two different law firms stating that the 2008 agreement between the District and Sutter is not likely to be overturned and that the District could be liable for substantial damages.

What will be the consequences of their action?

First, their ongoing spending to fight the agreement has cost the District nearly $400,000 in legal and consultant fees. If they continue, and the District cannot prove its case the findings may lead the District to bankruptcy.

Second, if they pursue action to undo the agreement, Sutter Health may be released of its obligation to rebuild Eden Medical Center. They can simply abandon the project. It would be far easier to abandon the project and pursue their damage claims than invest the full $320 million in a community that is not supportive of their efforts. Without a new hospital, Eden Medical Center will close its doors in 2013.  Furthermore, because of the legal cloud over ownership of San Leandro Hospital, there is a substantial risk of closure of the facility as well by next summer,

 How has this happened?

The actions of these Board members have gone unnoticed by most residents of the communities we serve. Their efforts have focused on San Leandro, and have ignored the rest of the District communities of Castro Valley, Hayward, San Lorenzo and a portion of Union City.

What can you do?

All residents of the District have a say in this matter.  The Board of Directors represents the entire District, not just San Leandro.  Because of their focus on San Leandro, we may lose both hospitals. This is wrong, and it is time for all residents to step up and say so.

The Board of Directors needs to hear that the residents of the District who supported the decision in 2008 in greater numbers are still supportive of the agreement and want the new hospital to be built.

As well-intentioned as the efforts to save San Leandro Hospital may be, they are ignoring expert advice and threatening the future of Eden Hospital, San Leandro Hospital and Alameda County health services by trying to undo the previous agreement rather than trying to find a solution by working constructively with all parties, Sutter, Alameda County Medical Center and the County of Alameda.

It is important for the entire community to speak on the subject and, so far, the District has heard primarily from members of the San Leandro community.

Attend the next meeting of the Eden Township Healthcare District and express your opinion:

 5:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the HARD Administrative Offices, 1099 E Street, Hayward


Senator Ellen M. Corbett responds to letter regarding San Leandro Hospital

SACRAMENTO – Senator Ellen M. Corbett (D-San Leandro) issued the following statement in response to the letter sent out by Dr. Ratnesar:

“This statement does not accurately reflect or describe the efforts of the Eden Township Health Care District Board.  This Board has worked diligently to stop the closure of a critical hospital and emergency room that serves all of Alameda County’s residents.  They are working to protect a public asset and ensure that San Leandro Hospital does not become a victim of Sutter Health’s ongoing pattern of irresponsible practices.”

“This letter is disingenuous, inaccurate and another scare tactic to stop the public from fighting the closure of their hospitals in Castro Valley and San Leandro.  In public meetings over the last two years, health care providers, Alameda County officials, and residents have talked about options to keep both our hospitals open.  The only voice that has not been part of the discussion for a solution has been Sutter Health.  It is Sutter Health that has filed the lawsuit that threatens to spend the important remaining assets of the district instead of agreeing to a thoughtful and legitimate mediation process that allows for a less costly solution.”

“In addition, this letter inaccurately describes state deadlines for seismic compliance.  There is substantial time to meet current mandates.  I have successfully worked with the state in the past to make sure these deadlines do not impact local health care facilities and I will continue to do so in the future.”

“I also encourage the public to attend the meeting on December 16th and voice their support for keeping both of our hospitals open”

For more information, visit Senator Corbett’s web site at http://www.sen.ca.gov/corbett

And from board member Carole Rogers
In response to Dr. Ratnesar letter to the community:
Dr. Ratnesar sent “An Open Letter to the Community” penned by the District’s Public Relations consultant.  This letter does not have the approval of the current Board of Directors.  Dr. Ratnesar’s term of office as Chairman of the Board is up on December 31, 2009 and he is obviously using the “sky is falling” technique.
I have had separate legal opinions stating that the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can be legally challenged – in direct conflict with the “two legal opinions” obtained by Dr. Ratnesar.  His legal opinions discuss the “narrow focus” of their study.
 Giving away a $35 million asset (San Leandro Hospital) that Sutter Health maintains is now worth $0 – is squandering District funds.  These assets belong to the all of the people in the District – not just San Leandro.  Sutter Health refuses a thorough examination of their books to determine the real cause of the financial losses at San Leandro Hospital. Sutter Health has been challenged by Marin General Hospital for allegedly illegally transferring $100 million in profits to its parent corporation.  It is and will be worth every penny in legal fees to keep San Leandro Hospital open as a 24/7 acute care facility.  Especially since we have one entity who says they can run the hospital profitably AS IS. 
Sutter Health is legally obligated to rebuild Eden Medical Center in their 2004 MOU where Eden Township Healthcare District purchased San Leandro Hospital. If they cease the construction, they will face another lawsuit – a repeat of the threatened lawsuit the District filed against Sutter in 2007 to bring about the latest MOU.
There is no “secret” attempt to rescind the MOU; it is in the open.  I gave the board and the community an outside legal opinion last July stating that the MOU was invalid because of conflict of interest by existing board members.  Dr Ratnesar is employed by Sutter Health; and he is using Sutter scare tactics about losing both hospitals. Consultants reviewed the 2007 MOU using a powerpoint presentation at public hearings for the community and the board.  See attachment (Proposed MOU).  This MOU does not state anywhere that Sutter can purchase the hospital and sell it to anyone else.  There is a separate “Lease agreement” that the community never saw (nor did I) that gives Sutter Health the right to ownership per their lawsuit against the District.  The minutes for approval of this agreement (and the MOU) has been lost and never signed.
District leadership has held secret meetings with Sutter Health without other Board members knowledge.
Closing San Leandro Hospital will have an impact on Castro Valley, Oakland and San Lorenzo residents.  It will mean that 22,000 yearly emergency room visits will go to Eden Medical Center – with fewer beds in the new hospital – to take care of the population. It will mean that lives will be lost. 
I am encouraged by vocal community members and labor unions.  At the last public hearing on San Leandro Hospital at the San Leandro Library, there was standing room only attendance by local citizens – 99.9% wanted to keep the hospital open.  Please be more vocal; call the District office and let them know you want to keep San Leandro Hospital open.  (510-538-2031) and join our yahoo egroup: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SaveSLHospital/
Thank you for your support.
Carole Rogers RN
Eden Township Healthcare District

Jason Sweeney