Why Sutter Health Is So Quiet About San Leandro Hospital’s Future

SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | When news Sutter Health had purchased a full-page color advertisement in various newspapers just a day before Alameda County Supervisor Wilma was set to discuss the fairness of the health care provider’s non-profit tax exemption, it struck more than a few as no coincidence. It also gave yet another indication the public relations-conscious Sacramento-based corporation has a higher than normal aversion to bad news.

When asked whether Chan’s scheduled 90-minute presentation with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee June 22 had scared Sutter into buying the ad, Chan smiled and said, “I hope so.”

Chan’s candid nature when it comes to Sutter is not surprising. She says Sutter will not talk to her about the impending siutation at San Leandro Hospital. Of course, being persona non grata with Sutter is something of a badge of honor for supporters of keeping the hospital open. “After the lawsuit, no one really knows what’s going on,” Chan said. “I don’t know what’s going on and they’re not allowed to talk about it.” During last Friday’s information-only meeting in San Leandro, Chan said Sutter officials were also invited, but a Sutter spokesman denied the assertion earlier this week.

While Alameda County officials, Eden Township Healthcare District members and Sutter have been noticeably quiet on the future of San Leandro Hospital over the past few months, one union official tells The Citizen Sutter’s ambivalence is tied to its proposed construction of a 550-bed facility at Cathedral Hill in San Francisco. A plan blessed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee lashed the Cathredral Hill project together with Sutter continuing operations at St. Luke’s Hospital, a facility much like San Leandro Hospital that caters to uninsured and low-income patients. “Sutter cannot have a hospital closing in the East Bay at the same time its in negotiation for Cathedral Hill,” said the representative. In addition, Sutter may not have enough votes on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to move the plan forward anyway.

To demonstrate the interconnectivity of Sutter’s strategies not only in San Francisco, but in similarly controversial battles in Marin, Santa Rosa and San Leandro, the San Francisco Examiner reported the San Francisco Board of Supervisors registered concern over fine points in Sutter’s proposal to continue operating St. Luke’s. Supervisors were surprised to learn Sutter subsidiary, California Pacific Medical Center, could close St. Luke’s if it were to fall below one percent of its operating margin for two consecutive years, the paper reported.

A similar gambit was employed by Sutter in San Leandro following the pivotal signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2008 that ultimately leading to the reconstruction of Eden Hospital in Castro Valley, but put San Leandro Hospital’s future on tenuous footing. Critics say Sutter did not even wait two years to begin plans to close the hospital under the clause. The move later fomented consternation in the community and set the stage for a reconfigured health care district to stymie Sutter’s intentions through the court system. A correction today on the Examiner’s Web site states Sutter does not plan to close St. Luke’s, but the parallels, nontheless, between the two situations are ominous.

As reported last week, doctors and nurses continue to charge the dire financial straits at San Leandro Hospital were created by Sutter through creative accounting. Sutter’s state hospital license covers both San Leandro and Eden leading many critics to say Sutter is cooking the books as precursor to closing the facility and its emergency room.

Sutter also received a stinging blow in Marin County where an arbitrator last week ordered them to pay the Marin Healthcare District over $21 million. Critics had charged Sutter with siphoning $180 million in profits away from Marin General Hospital in anticipation of turning over the facility to the District. More bad news is also expected for Sutter in August when a state legislative audit of its business practices, recommended last year by Sen. Ellen Corbett, is due to be released.

Categories: Alameda County Board, Eden hospital, Eden Township, Marin Healthcare District, S.L. Hospital, San Francisco, St. Luke's, Sutter, Wilma Chan

8 replies

  1. “doctors and nurses continue to charge the dire financial straits at San Leandro Hospital were created by Sutter”

    I've lived in San Leandro for 50 years, and for decades this hospital has been having financial problems–long before Sutter took over.


  2. But, did the other operators have an incentive to close it or to sell it?


  3. To anonymous above, I have lived in San Leandro since 1950, and have worked at SLH since 1999, and I believe you are wrong about the hospital having financial problems, the real problems started when Sutter started its campaign to close the hospital, and the state of the economy the past few years were definitely a contributor. But under previous owners there were not the huge loses that Sutter claims, I believe the hospital is not the loser portrayed by Sutter, and there definitely is some very suspect book keeping going on. So anonymous I would wonder why you spend so much time and effort to want the Hospital to close, have you ever been a patient in your 50 years as a resident at the Hospital ?? I think you may be a Kaiser patient, as I was in the 1950's when they had a small clinic on E 14th St. Do you remember it. Well I have to go for now. JOHN KALAFATICH ( PAPA JOHN )


  4. How many operators has San Leandro had since 1970? Six or seven? Why are they no longer here? What happened to Humana? They still operate in parts of US, but they left SL? Doctor's hospital? Why are they no longer here? And how about Trident? How come they left? Sutter took over from Trident and now look where we are? Guess what? Not even Sutter knows what it is going to do with hospital. Tony Santos


  5. If Sutter wants to return to the 2009 deal or some similar structure then they need to wait until the election is over. If Sutter is not losing too much money at SLH then they want to wait until they assess what ETHD is willing to offer in compensation (reparations) now that the legal battle is over with a decisive victory for Sutter. If Sutter is concerned about ER volumes at Eden (or actually cares about healthcare access, they might want to wait until Kaiser San Leandro opens (Milo, you going to throw around absurd predictions about Kaiser uncompensated ER volumes again unsupported by any facts?). If Sutter cares about publicity, they might want to wait until they reach an accord with CNA and their SF deal is signed. Is there any reason for Sutter to hurry the process that has taken so many years already. The only people who appear to have acted rashly all along the way are ETHD.


  6. Hey TS you talk as if SLH is the only one to have changed hands or have left SL, just look around, like I have recently said, I have lived in SL since 1950 and I have seen a lot of changes, some of the previous owners you mentioned have completely left the state as for Trident maybe you meant Triad, well SLH was the last hospital they owned in California so they just wanted out of the state, and why do you think there was always a buyer for the hospital if it was such a loser, well again the biggest loser I see is one person named TONY SANTOS, will you ever get your facts straight and correct or will you continue to make a fool out of yourself with all of this misinformation. Now for the above anonymous, who talks about Kaisers compensations what makes you think that uninsured patients are going to pay Kaiser anymore than they pay SLH and do you think Medicare and Medi-cal will pay Kaiser more than they pay SLH come on now arent you being a little absurd, and what makes you think Kaiser will keep any non Kaiser patient for their full recovery, I dont think you know much about hospitals. So until next time. JOHN KALAFATICH ( PAPA JOHN )


  7. Tony Santos, you were the only Mayor, now of course
    ex mayor hahahaha who would like to close a hospital in his own town . You tell me/us of any
    Mayor/ex Mayor who supports closing a Hospital in his own town . I can't understand what kind of mentality do you have . Sutter is not losing money!!Sutter makes at least $600 million a year .
    You were the worst mayor I've heard of .STUPID .


  8. Yes, stupid is the adjective which fits our ex-Mayor like a glove in this case. It's pointed out in this comments thread that there is a huge difference between previous SLH owners selling the Hospital, and Sutter's persistent attempts to CLOSE the ER, ICU, and other services which save lives and comfort those in pain in our community. Yet, he persists with the same line of thinking.

    Tony is capable of forming cogent, fact-based, compassionate thoughts on other issues, but the place his mind is stuck on here is INFURIATING! Plus, it showed horrible political instincts. One of the most important things happening in town during his re-election campaign, and he took a very public position which was certain to cost him votes. And for what?


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