By Steven Tavares

Supporters of keeping the doors open at San Leandro Hospital, don’t expect help from the federal government. Rep. Pete Stark said during a town hall last weekend he cannot pick and choose which hospitals he helps and described himself powerless against the corporate might of Sutter Health, the operator of the facility.

“There’s nothing much I can do. Sutter marches to their own tune, pretty much,” said Stark. “Under Sutter’s domain, you have to take your chances with them. I have not found them to be very good corporate citizens and they are not very easy to get along with.”

Sutter’s reputation for hardball tactics and its desire to consolidate the Northern California market rivaling Kaiser Permanente is well known among politicos who have crossed their path. Stark voiced concern over targeting funding for San Leandro Hospital over others. It is commonly accepted among those at the Eden Township Healthcare District and the County that the hospital needs between $6-9 million annually to survive on its own.

“It would be difficult. I have a hospital in Alameda that wants extra money. Now we’re going to be faced with $20 billion in retrofit for earthquakes,” he said. “I would hope I could get some funding for across the state, but that’s going to have to be shared with every hospital. Once you start selecting hospitals you create a real political problem. I think it needs to be across the board and I don’t think the San Leandro hospital meets that test, except as a rehab facility, perhaps.”

Stark, though, was incorrect on some important points. He said San Leandro Hospital is not a “district hospital” when, in fact, it is. The facility is also sufficiently retro-fitted for earthquakes, which is one of the main reasons why the county identified the hospital for acute rehabilitation services to replace the unit at nearby Fairmont Hospital, which was deemed too costly to retrofit.

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