The Citizen

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERThe chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District took the unprecedented step Wednesday night of calling for the resignation of long-time boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar on conflict of interest charges stemming from his involvement in the 2008 agreement between the  District and Sutter that is at the center of their latest legal skirmish.

“This request is made not only because of Dr. Ratnesar’s apparent conflict of interest,” said Board Chair Carole Rogers,” but because he also voted against filing a law suit against Sutter Health in our last closed session where he is mentioned as a party to the illegality of the 2008 [memorandum of understanding].”

Ratnesar has been the target of criticism for over a year for his employment by Sutter running concurrently to his stint on the board. After a string of residents also called for his resignation, he said, “I don’t want San Leandro Hospital to close any less than anyone here, but I don’t want the new hospital construction stopped as well.”

To further elaborate on his rationale for voting against filing the Mar. 10 lawsuit, Ratnesar may have inadvertently described board deliberations made during closed session when he said the District’s lawyers had advised them it was a “50-50 chance” Sutter could step away from the rebuild of Eden Medical Center currently underway in Castro Valley.” Rogers later disagreed with the context of the discussion Ratnesar had described.

During the meeting, Ratnesar did not respond to Rogers’ request, which he says he only learned about during the meeting. When asked afterwards whether he planned to resign he said, “I need to think about this. There is an equal amount of people who are very worried that the hospital may not get built.”

Ratnesar, who also said he would not seek re-election this November, criticized Rogers for making the unorthodox request of calling for a boardmember’s ousting. “It was inappropriate,” said Ratnesar. “If she wants to come out here as a public member, then yes, but I think it was very inappropriate. I was given no warning. We were just told we were going to discuss the policy. We did not discuss the policy tonight.”

Rogers’ statements came late in the nearly two-hour hearing and followed a string of residents who earlier called for Ratnesar to step down. Carol Barazi, a nurse at San Leandro Hospital, told Ratnesar as he blankly glared at the podium, “I’m sorry, but I think for everybody in the community and probably for you as well, that should resign.”

John Kalafatich, a popular pharmacy technician at San Leandro Hospital affectionately known as “Papa John”, faulted Ratnesar for failing to heed the wishes of the community by not assisting in saving the hospital’s emergency room. He then alluded to his own recent health problems and said, “If you’re having a heart attack, every minute counts and you are interfering with the possibility of me living.”

San Leandro mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy went further and told the board if Ratnesar did not resign, his case should be referred to the state’s attorney general’s office for investigation. “This has gone on far too long,” said Cassidy.

The board also voted to postpone for a third time the sale of their partnership in the San Leandro Surgery Center to Sutter. The issue of approving the sale for $1.1 million has the possibility of being further delayed indefinitely until a settlement is reached in the two legal disputes between the District and Sutter. The planned use of the “Rule of Necessity” for the third occasion was also postponed. This time in reference to the issue of a conflict of interest found last week involving Rogers and her employment with the Alameda County Medical Center. The board questioned whether the District was actually near the point of negotiating with ACMC.

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