April 23 2012 | Members of the Eden Township Healthcare District say a letter offering title to San Leandro Hospital to Sutter Health is in the mail.

Carole Rogers, the chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District, told a large group of residents and nurses gathered for a San Leandro City Council committee hearing regarding the future of the facility, that title to the hospital was offered to Sutter in a letter sent today.

The CEO of the District, Dev Mahadevan added the correspondence says they are “willing to promptly turn over title” to San Leandro Hospital. An agreement the District made nearly two years ago with an arbitrator called for transfer of title once its lawsuit with Sutter was completed, said Mahadevan. After the recent state supreme court decision to not hear their case, not doing so, he said, would find the District in noncompliance. An agreement over legal fees owed by the District to Sutter have also not been discussed, said Mahadevan.

Beside today’s letter, Rogers says there has been no contact between the District and Sutter. She told the group, though, once title is transferred, Sutter will likely file to close the facility in the next 90 days. Sutter has not made an official announcement on its plans for the hospital, although, Alameda County Health Care Services Director Alex Briscoe cautioned a distinction should be made between closing the facility entirely and merely shuttering its emergency room.

Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC) CEO Wright Lassiter said his organization is also not currently in communication with Sutter, but reiterated that they maintain interest in running San Leandro Hospital as an acute rehabilitation facility or “hybrid model” containing a host of small scale services. The proposal is nearly identical to a controversial lease agreement between Sutter and ACMC—since expired–that in many ways precipitated anger and distrust from the community toward each group.

Lassiter said ACMC’s prior deal with Sutter was based on the belief San Leandro Hospital’s financial condition would eventually force it to close and allow for acute rehab services offered at nearby Fairmont Hospital to be moved to San Leandro Hospital. Fairmont’s longevity is limited by state-mandated seismic improvement long ago deemed financially unfeasible. “We are very interested in operating the facility,” said Lassiter, although he was less clear about what type of hospital it would hopefully operate. “We never said we want to close San Leandro Hospital,” he said and noted the closure of its emergency room would be “less than ideal” for its own interests at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Yet, mistrust still endures.

Mike Brannan, a labor representative for the California Nurses Association, and other hospital personnel pressed Lassiter on whether another back door deal is being hammered out between ACMC and Sutter. “There’s no agreement,” said Lassiter. “It’s at Sutter’s discretion, not ours,” he told the labor rep. “You’re presuming there’s something I’m not telling you.”

The lack of public transparency has been a hallmark of the nearly three-year-old battle to save San Leandro Hospital. Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan agreed transparency has been an issue. San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy said any potential deal should include community engagement before, not after, a deal is consummated and not a situation where the two parties, in effect, tell the community, “take it if you want it or not.”

Carole Rogers, who has long been a thorn in Sutter’s side, asked county officials to explore their own joint powers agreement, similar to the plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, that would align Alameda County, the City of San Leandro and the District in saving San Leandro Hospital. “To lose that hospital would be criminal,” said Lisa LaFave, a registered nurses at the hospital. But, when it comes to the tenuous balance between cost-effectiveness and saving lives, the addition of ACMC for maintaining the current menu of services at San Leandro Hospital could put the entire health care system in danger, said Briscoe. “I cannot take a risk to sustain San Leandro Hospital.”