Health District goes on the Offensive

District Rolls the Dice on San Leandro Hospital | Mayor Santos Take the Heat | City Council’s Bloodlust for San Leandro Times Reporter | Gregory’s Baseless Attack | Joyce, Our Choice!

Make no mistake, Monday’s firing of the Eden Township Healthcare District’s long-time attorney may be the biggest story in San Leandro Hospital’s run of notable developments this year. With the bold, yet risky move, Directors Carole Rogers and Dr. Vin Sawhney have reached the stratosphere of reverence among hospital workers and the community, while Dr. Bill West, according to numerous supporters of the hospital, has delivered on the promise of turning the District towards a more offensive direction against Sutter Health. Aside from overheated rhetoric this week from San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and Ratnesar, the move by the District is a risky gamble, but one some have been long saying needed to be done. It is generally agreed Sutter, with the 2007 MOU, is operating from a hugely advantageous position that made the District’s more defensive position a bit toothless. The next three to four months may prove whether the move was valiant and victorious or a historic blunder for health care in the East Bay. The stake are now as high as they have ever been and seemingly rest on a set of lawyers very familiar with Sutter who may have more of an uphill battle in San Leandro than in their previous battleground in Marin County.
‘WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?’ Tony Santos has been telling anyone who listens that he’s had a finger on the San Leandro Hospital issue for two years–longer than anyone, he says–although Monday he says it’s now three years. In the meantime, he has confounded supporters of the saving the hospital which is also a vast majority of the city, by positioning himself in the center of both sides, but more times than not oddly sounding like a Sutter apologist. He has criticized doctors at San Leandro Hospital for making it unprofitable by using facilities for some procedures and diagnostics. On numerous occasions, he has played the role of pragmatist by saying a private hospital chain is not entitled to provide a subsidy to keep a money-losing hospital operating and now has led the charge to discredit the Eden board’s firing of their legal counsel. There is very little consensus as what Santos is aiming to accomplish, especially in the context of an election year in 2010. Supporters of the hospital have lit up message boards generally asking is he weakly trying to appear relevant or being used as a stooge by Sutter? One board member in a Facebook response to a comment from the mayor (now removed) actually wrote “Whose side are you on?” Despite noise over a possible deal with Sutter pushed by Santos and Ratnesar, sources still say the main issue with any hybrid option is a yearly subsidy of between $6-9 million. It was the crux of the problem before and still remains, sources tell The Citizen. An interesting side show to the this whole story, is a suggestion made by Alameda County Health Services Director Alex Briscoe where the District and the city of San Leandro pitch-in funding for some of the costs. Santos alluded to some groups asking the city to get involved and he seemed amendable to it. Any action would have to go through the city council where it would be interesting to see the issue debated between mayoral rivals Santos and Vice mayor Joyce Starosciak. In the past month, the two have used a few key city issues as proxy battles for next year’s election. At a body where they have debated the use of a few measly dollars in a tight city budget situation, allocating a few millions dollars at San Leandro Hospital could be a heated showdown.
THE COUNCIL OPTS FOR MOB VIOLENCE Politicians and reporters do not get along and nor should they, but there is usually a mutual appreciation of the services each other provides to their community. Reporters are sometimes critical of politicians and the reverse, but what numerous members of the San Leandro City Council did Monday night was over the line in criticizing a front page story in last week’s San Leandro Times. The stoning of Amy Sylvestri’s article on Measure WW funding was unmerciful. No less than five councilmembers commented on the piece. The Citizen is not here to vouch for the veracity of the article, but to remind the council to retain a bit of decorum. A journalists ability to present the facts of a story in a comprehensive and trustworthy manner is a reporters most cherished trait and it hampers their ability to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. Besides, the article was not factually incorrect, but a bit ambiguous. What the city sorely needs is to hire a public relations officer to make the city’s case clear in such stories. Such piling on by the city council could have been glossed over if not for their residual bloodlust aimed at The Citizen. During a recess Monday night, Councilman Michael Gregory, referring to an article detailing his meeting with Eden boardmember Dr. Bill West, said he has not spoken with West for two months and said “You should get your facts straight.” The statement, made as the face of the collective council was still dripping with the blood of the Times reporter, is preposterous. Here’s the facts, the story quotes West saying he met with Gregory on the subject of the hospital while the mayor confirmed the meeting and another source detailed the conversation. Gregory was said to be uncomfortable with approaching West on the subject at the mayor’s insistence. Other than the hospital being located in Gregory’s district, he also lives in close proximity to West. Telling a reporter to get their facts straight when, indeed, they are rock solid is insulting and cavalier.


GIVE ME A J-O-Y-C-E! You haven’t seen campaign signs for Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak’s run for Tony Santos’ job yet, but a preview of one is on her web site and on glossy literature around the city. One irascible former city official thought they were “horrible” and another less cranky current official wondered if the absence of her last name meant she was admitting its was unpronounceable. Listen, it’s not hard to say. Try it. Stuh-ROSE-see-ak. Aside from that, leaving out her surname from campaign signs is a bit peculiar when her name recognition is a bit low among most of the city. That being said, some have mocked the rhyming, sing-song tagline of “Joyce. Your Choice”. I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, after covering San Leandro for the last six months, I can tell you the city leaders are not only saddled with a financial deficit, but an extreme deficit of humor. Robin Williams would bomb at the city council chambers and if someone placed a banana peel on the ground for comedy effect, a councilmember would pick it up and put it in their compost bin. So, a little humor and personality is very welcomed and besides what would you expect from a former cheerleader? Gooooo team!--S.T.