NOTICEABLE THAW AFTER NEWS OF PRIME’S POSSIBLE BID
OAKLAND, Calif. – Sutter Health is closer to breaking ground on their new $400 million hospital at Eden Medical Center. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the long-awaited final environmental impact report (FEIR) Tuesday, but not before Supervisor Nate Miley appealed to a noticeable thawing of intensity from both sides to nudge Sutter and possible bidder Prime Healthcare Services to the bargaining table.
Miley repeatedly asked Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney whether Sutter would negotiate with the late-emerging option to keep San Leandro Hospital’s ER and acute care services open. Technically, Sutter has not offered an official decision on San Leandro Hospital, but Bischalany was visibly reluctant to answer the supervisor’s question before slightly bowing his head and saying, “sure.” Miley announced the county would take its offer off the table if Sutter could make deal with Prime or any other health care entity. “We don’t have to have a dog in this hunt,” he said.
A day earlier, Prime Health Care’s owner Dr. Prem Reddy chastised Sutter officials during the Eden Township District meeting at the San Leandro Library. Reddy implied he could run the operation better and saying the people of San Leandro “deserve better.” Some in attendance believe some of Reddy’s comments Monday night were the beginning of very public negotiations with Sutter. Reddy also criticized Sutter’s option to give the county 90-day current before closing up shop in San Leandro. A few city officials thought he was making overtures to lengthen the time before taking over the hospital.
Approval of the EIR was delayed last month when a flood of new information was received by county staff and whether a crucial aspect of a link between the rebuilding of Eden and the closing of San Leandro Hospital existed. Miley motioned to postpone any decision by the board under the pretext of avoiding any future lawsuits. The county staff returned Tuesday and found nothing new in the late-filed documents nor was there any evidence of any linkage between the fate of the two hospitals. Regarding the EIR, the county staff reiterated their belief that no physical damage would be incurred by the environment, which primarily focused on traffic, air and noise quality.
Many of the same speakers from various rallies and town hall meeting again voiced their opinion–some in anger, some with a tone of melancholy–but the overall tone of the hearing was far more complimentary than others. The board chambers were full, but less of the ubiquitous doctors and nurses were in attendance. One three occasions, speakers hoping to save San Leandro Hospital, turned away from the podium and addressed supporters of Eden saying that “nobody is against building your hospital.” Such mutual respect along with many glowing references to the emergence of a possible buyer seem to have lightened the tone quite a bit.