Jan. 4, 2012 | Despite defeats in two lower courts, the Eden Township Healthcare District voted 3-1 to petition the State Supreme Court in its conflict of interest claim against Sutter Health.

“The fight goes on!” said District Board Chair Carole Rogers after the announcement Wednesday night that followed a special closed session meeting in Hayward.

Rogers was joined in the majority with board members Dr. William West and Les Friedman. Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar voted against the proposal. The board’s fifth member, Dr. Vin Sawhney did not vote because of a potential conflict of interest, according to Rogers. Sawhney disclosed he received compensation from Sutter Health for indigent care provided within the past year.

The decision to petition the State Supreme Court, if accepted or not, is the end of the road for the District. If denied, the state appellate court’s Dec. 21 decision against the District takes precedent.

With legal fees over the past two years approaching $3 million, the move will further inflate the District’s outlay at the expense of other ancillary activities the health care board endows in the Eden area.

“It’s something that we all ask ourselves, ‘is it worth it?’ I’m criticized left and right for spending the District’s money on legal fees and not handing out grant money,” said Rogers.

The District’s ability to fund various community grants has been suspended for much of last year. Despite pushes by Rogers and Ratnesar to reinstate the grant funding process, it remains shuttered indefinitely.

Resoundingly, though, Rogers and the board say the protracted legal and political fight against Sutter to save San Leandro Hospital is worth additional time and treasure. If the court accepts the District’s petition, Rogers believes a Supreme Court case could keep the hospital open another year. Sutter first announced it was closing San Leandro Hospital in September 2009 until the same District board voted to take Sutter to court.

The District’s lawyer’s have until Jan. 30 to petition the high court. Rogers says the board has not seen the final documents or what legal questions they will pose the court. The court has 60 days to respond.