Lai-Bitker asks Health District for $2 million to keep ER open


By Steven Tavares
The Citizen

Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Alice Lai-Bitker, in a letter to the Eden Township Healthcare District, has asked for $2 million to keep the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital open until June of next year, The Citizen has learned.

The letter, sent yesterday to members of the five-member board, may be yet another shift in strategy to keep the hospital open after Sutter Health announced it would cease services at the facility Sept. 30.

Lai-Bitker’s Chief of Staff Shawn Wilson said the short-term goal is to keep emergency room services open while local officials can secure a long-term deal.

A week ago, Lai-Bitker appeared to favor a “hybrid model” of rehab, surgical and ER services at San Leandro Hospital. The Interim Director of the Alameda County Health Services Alex Briscoe indicated such a plan would need between $3.5 million to $7 million annually to run and could possibly entail subsidies from Sutter Health, the Eden Township Healthcare District, Alameda County and the city of San Leandro, yet two of those entities are unlikely to contribute to such a plan.

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos said, “There is no way we can participate in spending any money on the ER.” Earlier in the day, Santos received sobering news the state plans to borrow redevelopment and specific tax dollars from municipalities to balance its budget.

“I don’t know if he’s the only person who believes this,” said Wilson, “but I don’t think he should close a chapter before it starts. This is a crucial time for keeping the hospital open.”

At Monday’s city council meeting, Santos also said Sutter officials have told him they will not contribute to a hybrid model at San Leandro Hospital, but confirmed the Township Board indicated to him a willingness to make a partial contribution to the hospital cause.

Wilson believes the onus is on the board to help monetarily saying, “The Eden health care board is the entity that put us in this position.”

Santos reiterated what is becoming a common refrain at city hall that the hospital problem is a county issue and not solely San Leandro’s, in addition to calling for a district-wide ballot measure next year. He also told council members Monday night the hospital, at this time, likely has no possible suitors. “There really are not any hospital groups coming forward with the idea of taking over for Sutter,” he said.

Despite local political infighting and a tenuous economy, Wilson believes there is still hope for a solution, “There’s options,” he said, “Even with the situation within in the state, I don’t want people to think nothing can be done.”