By Steven Tavares

St. Rose Hospital is an independent
163-bed community facility in Hayward. 

The president of Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital is in preliminary talks with the Eden Township Healthcare District and Sutter Health over operation of San Leandro Hospital, according to District Chair Carole Rogers.

Michael Mahoney, the president and CEO of St. Rose discussed the proposal during a closed session meeting at the conclusion of the District’s last board meeting, Jan. 19. Those familiar with the situation say Mahoney’s offer came after nearly two years of urging by the District and community members to get involved in the campaign to save San Leandro Hospital from closure. St. Rose is an independent community hospital located within the District’s jurisdiction.

Rogers specified the proposal is only part of the District’s “wish list” and the possibility of it occurring rests on Sutter’s willingness to allow San Leandro Hosptial to be operated by another entity. After two small legal victories in the past month, the District likely possesses little leverage against Sutter’s wishes to close the hospital and lease it to the county for an acute rehabilitation facility replacing Fairmont Hospital.

The courtroom skirmishes between the two revolve around the District’s decision to block Sutter option to purchase San Leandro Hospital in 2009 with no money changing hands. Sutter quickly turned around and agreed to lease the facility to the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC), which critics derided as Sutter negotiating contracts for the hospital without the right to do so. Most observers agree the District is up against the wall because of the 2008 agreements it made with Sutter effectively choosing to rebuild Eden over the possibility of losing San Leandro Hospital.

Nevertheless, they say, District still possesses two important cards over Sutter’s dominance: an extreme aversion to poor public opinion against Sutter and overwhelming support from the community against the health care behemoth. Large gatherings of rabid support in the 2009 by San Leandro residents widely attributed to the District’s subsequent courage to fight Sutter in the courts and extend the life of the hospital, at minimum, for the next few years.

Sources familiar with the discussion at the county-level tell The Citizen there may be a reason for Mahoney’s outreach to the District. It is believed Mahoney has already met with Sutter officials over the proposal with Alameda County Health Services Director Alex Briscoe in tow. Sutter’s reaction to the plan is not yet known, but the inclusion of Briscoe, who is highly-respected among local officials and a point man in the county’s negotiations with Sutter, is regarded as a sign the county may take a fresh look at its original offer to convert San Leandro Hospital to acute rehab with Sutter and ACMC.

In June 2009, then-Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker said she would urge the board of supervisors to rescind the county’s offer after a possible suitor was identified to operate the hospital. Lai-Bitker said the county’s main concern for making the deal was in the absence of any viable operators coming forward. When Southern Caifornia’s Prime Healthcare came forward willing to run the facility, Lai-Bitker vowed to urge her fellow board members to rescind the offer. Ultimately, a vote never occurred at the board of supervisors when a third vote could not be had. Sutter vehemently argued against Prime Healthcare’s foray into San Leandro with a $300 million Eden Medical Center being constructed just miles away in Castro Valley.

In the meantime, the composition of the board has changed name plates, by the elusive third vote is not believed to exist, just yet. Supervisor Wilma Chan, who replaced Lai-Bitker, is viewed as a strong advocate of San Leandro Hospital. Not much is known about Supervisor Nadia Lockyer’s view on the situation, but members of the District and community leaders have been busy lobbying Lockyer’s support for rescinding the county’s offer, according to Rogers. Board President Nate Miley is the other supervisor who pledged support in the past.

Rogers says the District has turned to Mahoney in the past over the possibility of operating San Leandro Hospital, but he voiced concern the board at St. Rose was not ready to make such an offer. That all changed recently when the board gave the go-ahead to Mahoney to begin talks with the District during a recent board retreat. Mahoney was seen in attendance at the District’s monthly meeting last month and told an audience last week at the Hayward Rotary Club of the possibility of St. Rose operating San Leandro Hospital.

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