OAKLAND, Calif. – The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted today to postpone a decision on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Castro Valley’s proposed $300 million hospital until June 9. The delay set off fears both San Leandro and Castro Valley could be without hospitals within a few years.
Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district the new Sutter medical center will reside, cited a flurry of new information yet to be analyzed as reasoning for the delay.
The three-hour meeting was punctuated by a majority of Castro Valley residence voicing support for the new hospital along with sanguine Sutter officials and often times exasperated board members.
Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Miley both voiced discontent over their perception advocates against the closing of San Leandro Hospital were spreading disinformation.
“I just wish we could have an argument based on facts and stop scaring people,” Haggerty said. While Miley more than once told the audience he was doing all he could to hold back his temper from flaring. “Some people should know better,” he said referring to the assertion the closing of San Leandro Hospital is linked to the building of the new Castro Valley hospital.
It was the second day in row both Haggerty and Miley voiced considerable anger in the board chambers. Yesterday, while referring to a letter Monday from the San Leandro City Council that urged for continued service at San Leandro Hospital, Haggerty theatrically threw the letter in a waste basket while Miley unbraided San Leandro City Councilman Michael Gregory for not knowing the intricacies of government.
Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney responded to the delay in approving the EIR by striking an ominous tone. “Any delay is a problem. Candidly, who knows beyond that,” he later added, “I cannot assure you it will pull through.”
The band of hardy opposition to the closing of San Leandro Hospital Sept. 30 was detailed in a memo by Sutter last week and seemed to only increase the sense of urgency. Protesters with the California Nurses Association demonstrated before the meeting with pickets sign and chants. San Leandro Hospital ER Nurse Jennifer Hom who addressed the crowd said, “We’re not going down without a fight. I don’t see how closing our hospital will help anyone and severely impact Eden.”
Part of the controversy stems from the EIR choosing to not to include an assessment of a “linkage” between the closing of San Leandro Hospital by Sutter and the new Castro Valley project. Board members refused to make the legal connection between the two hospital which are operated by Sutter under the same license while opponents of the hospital closing believe they see it plainly by presence of numerous emotional pleas to the board.
While noting the board was “conceding” nothing about the connection Miley and Supervisor Gail Steele made measured remarks urging for all new information to be accessed before putting the EIR to a vote.
Sutter officials declined comment, but bristled at suggestions the health provider has a record of shutting down hospitals in impoverished areas. Opponents enthusiastically refer to thwarted efforts by Sutter to close St. Luke’s in San Francisco and a facility in Santa Rosa as proof of their intentions. At one point when San Leandro City Councilman Jim Prola leveled this charge, a Sutter official turned and defiantly said, “name one.”
Critics have labeled Sutter’s closed door meetings with Alameda County with a wary eye and possibly in an era where belief in corporation is at an all-time low also suspect the non-profit medical provider seeks higher profits in more upscale Castro Valley over the often times indigent patients common at San Leandro Hospital.
CLICK HERE to listen to audio from today’s hearing