SECOND EDEN TOWNSHIP HEARING DRAWS LARGE NUMBERS
An already confusing and critical decision making process is taking a turn for the worst in backroom politics.
Eden Township Healthcare Director Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar again refused to answer questions about charges of conflict of interest before the five-member committee votes Monday on Alameda County’s proposal to convert San Leandro Hospital to an acute rehabilitation facility.
Before today’s second of three hearings at San Leandro Library, Ratnesar said all five of the directors have been briefed on the possible legal ramifications of voting on the plan, not just himself and director Carole Rogers, as reported by other outlets. Rogers is employed by the Alameda County Medical Center, who under the proposal would convert the hospital to an acute care rehab center after the closing of the same operation at Fairmont Hospital, which is seismically deficient.
Ratnesar did not comment on whether he would excuse himself from the vote but expressed exasperation at the well-known makeup of the directors. “There are many members who you could say have a conflict of interest,” Ratnesar said, “We all have worked in the medical field.” A representative from the California Nurses Association called for Ratnesar to resign from his post.
Ratnesar, a medical director at Eden Medical Center and employed by Sutter Health, chose not to speak to the possibility one or more of the competing sides may have raised the specter of a conflict of interest to scuttle the vote next Monday. “I don’t want to accuse anybody unless I have the facts,” he said.
Accusations of competing loyalties are common on a board that is typically stocked with members possessing deep connections within the local health care industry. Late last year, Director Dr. Vin Sawhney was accused of having business interest in an endoscopy clinic in Hayward critics said competed against facilities in the Eden Healthcare District he now represents. According to the Castro Valley Forum, current Director Dr. Harry Dvorsky said he believed at the time such an arrangement was a conflict of interest.
With no official presentation on Thursday’s agenda, the meeting was again filled with pleas from doctors, nurses and the public for the directors to save the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital.
State Senator Ellen Corbett told the sizable early afternoon crowd she fears the loss of the hospital along with doctors from the area. She also discouraged closing a hospital that is currently seismically retrofitted. “I strongly urge the members not to take any action that would transfer San Leandro Hospital until you have explored every single option,” said Corbett.