Union questions county's lease arrangement for San Leandro hospital

State Sen. Corbett schedules town hall meeting Thursday on impact to area

The future of San Leandro Hospital is up in the air following the Alameda County Medical Center's announcement that it has signed a lease agreement with Sutter Health that will ensure that the hospital remains open to the public.

Medical Center officials said the hospital will most likely become a physical rehabilitation and urgent care facility and end its 50-year history of serving as a primary acute care facility with an emergency room.

But Jim Ryder, the collective bargaining director for the California Nurses Association in Northern California, alleged Tuesday that if the Medical Center's lease arrangement goes through, "Not only will people lose jobs but San Leandro Hospital will cease to be a true hospital."

CNA spokesman Shum Preston said the hospital currently serves 27,000 people a year at its emergency room but will just serve 50 patients at a time if it's only a physical rehabilitation and urgent care facility.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), whose district includes Pleasanton, will hold a town hall meeting at the San Leandro Main Library at 6 p.m. Thursday to examine the impact of the possible transfer of the hospital to Sutter Health.

The Eden Township Healthcare District has owned the hospital since 2004 and Sutter has operated it since then.

In 2007, district directors gave Sutter approval to discontinue hospital services in 2009-2010.

Sutter also has an option to buy the medical complex, but the healthcare district's board of directors voted 3-1 last Tuesday not to approve the sale of the hospital to Sutter.

But the Medical Center officials said the next day that Sutter Health has recently exercised its option to buy the hospital under a lease option from the healthcare district and they plan to begin operations at San Leandro Hospital by early 2010.

Corbett said in a news release that, "The question on everyone's mind is whether the possible transfer of San Leandro Hospital to Sutter is in the best interest of our community."

Corbett's spokeswoman, Lynda Gledhill, said today that Corbett believes that it was "premature" and "misleading" for the Medical Center to announce that it has signed a lease because it doesn't own the hospital.

Carol Rogers, a nurse at Highland Hospital who is one of the healthcare district board members who voted against approving the sale to Sutter, said the board has hired a lawyer to explore its legal options concerning the future of San Leandro Hospital.

Rogers said, "I'm not convinced it's legal" for Sutter to buy the hospital and lease it to the Medical Center without approval of the healthcare district's board.

Ryder said the CNA also is exploring its legal options.

Ryder said he thinks the best option would be if the hospital were to be sold to Prime Healthcare Services, which is based in San Bernardino County.

He said Prime Healthcare has offered to lease and run the hospital as an acute care facility but he thinks Sutter doesn't want any competition for a new hospital it is building in nearby Castro Valley.

Sutter Medical officials couldn't be reached for comment today.

Wright Lassiter III, the Medical Center's chief executive, said in a statement that it would take an annual subsidy of between $6 million and $10 million to retain emergency and acute services at San Leandro Hospital.

He said such a subsidy may not be feasible in the current fiscal climate.

Medical Center officials said if San Leandro Hospital no longer offers emergency services, patients in need of such services will be transported by Alameda County Emergency Medical Services to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, which is less than five miles away.

They said other patients will be served by St. Rose Hospital in Hayward and Highland Hospital in Oakland.

But Rogers said it will take too long to transfer emergency room patients to other facilities and "Sutter will have blood on their hands" if such patients aren't treated in time.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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