Feb. 22, 2012 | The San Leandro City Council is preparing to take a more pro-active approach in finding alternatives for saving its community hospital. The Council approved the formation of the three-person Ad-Hoc committee to explore San Leandro Hospital’s near and long-term future, but not before two council members registered strong objection to the potential costs to city staff.

With the potential of a settlement up in the air and uncertainty over whether the State Supreme Court will accept a petition by the Eden Township Healthcare District to render final say on its legal fight with Sutter Health over title of the hospital, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy told the council it needs to begin a dialogue over what could potentially happen next.

“We could be in a situation in a matter of a month or less where the California State Supreme Court denies the petition and Sutter potentially closes the hospital,” Cassidy said Tuesday night. “I just want us not to be caught flat-footed if something should unfold.”

He later added, “If this hospital closes it’s going to be a disaster for this city.”

Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak and Diana Souza, though, did not see the view the hospital’s imminent demise with the same urgency. Neither member registered an aye vote for the creation of the committee later approved and to consist of Councilmembers Michael Gregory, Ursula Reed and Cassidy. Starosciak opposed the motion, while Souza abstained.

“The need to have San Leandro Hospital open is huge,” said Starosciak, but she later forcefully quizzed Cassidy on what exactly the committee would accomplish. “We don’t have a problem yet that we can clearly define,” she said.

Like Starosciak, Souza questioned whether using staff time on the issue of San Leandro Hospital was a worthwhile expenditure for the budget-conscious council. “I just wanted us allll to understand what they’re going to be taking off to do this,” said Souza. “We talk about how tight things are. This is going to cost us.”

Souza later asked the council to consider capping the amount of time and money used by staff on the committee. She also raised doubt over San Leandro residents, one-third of whom are members of Kaiser Permanente by some estimates, are willing to approve a parcel tax, if one is ever proposed. Assuming such a tax needed a two-thirds majority, Souza said, “you would need every single Kaiser member to support that.”

Gregory, whose district the hospital is located said, “things could not be worse” for the city’s health care future and those employed at the facility representing one of San Leandro’s largest employer. “It impacts this town like no other thing.”

Councilman Jim Prola added: “If you ask the members of our community if we should do this, I think you would come back with a resounding yes,” Prola said limited access to the new emergency rooms at Kaiser on Merced Avenue is still over two years away.

Cassidy said he intends for the Ad-Hoc committee to meet sometime near the end of March.