Oct. 21, 2011 | The U.S. District Court of Appeals will begin oral arguments next month in the Eden Township Healthcare District’s dispute with Sutter Health over title to the beleaguered San Leandro Hospital.

The hearings begin Nov. 2, 9 a.m. at the Earl Warren Building and Courthouse in San Francisco.

The often nasty two-year legal dispute between the Eden Township Healtcare District and Sacramento-based Sutter Health appears to be nearing the beginning of the end.

At issue is possession of title to San Leandro Hospital, which Sutter contends the District illegally withheld when it denied their right to purchase the facility under a much-decried agreement between the parties in 2008.  Sutter’s request was rebuffed a year later by the District Board of Directors in 2009.

An Alameda Court Superior judge ruled in favor of Sutter last year, but the District appealed the decision arguing a former District board member possessed a conflict of interest in signing the controversial 2008 agreement. In addition, they say, George Bischalany, the current CEO of Sutter’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley also served, at the time, in the same capacity with the District.

A loss in appellate court for the District would be devastating for the group of hardy local residents who have passionately fought for the hospital to remain open as a full-service facility with 24-hour emergency room access, but not fatal.

Numerous alternatives have been bandied about by the District and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Among them consolidating  disparate services, including acute rehabilitation services, at San Leandro Hospital with help from the Alameda County Medical Center.

Another plan is merging St. Rose Hospital in Hayward with San Leandro Hospital under the umbrella of the health care district. Doing so, officials say, would allow the two hospital a greater economy of scale in procuring state and federal dollars.