SAVE SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | If Sutter Health gets its way, the Eden Township Healthcare District may cease to exist sooner than later. But, that is not stopping the District’s elected leaders from searching for revenue to keep San Leandro Hospital open. One avenue may be a local parcel tax. Noted Oakland campaign strategist Larry Tramutola says his findings show the public is favorable to such a tax, but that the health care district has also done a poor job of building public awareness of its function and plight.
Tramutola told the District board last week, 88 percent of likely voters supported a general tax to help the local health care system. Hayward residents were easily the most supportive with 77 percent, followed by San Leandro, 66 percent; and Union City, 65 percent. A two-thirds majority is needed for any tax measure to pass.
However, the District is not just an afterthought in the minds of local residents, but virtually invisible. Fifty-five percent of likely voters have never heard of the health care district, said Tramutola. Twenty-four percent were aware, but had no opinion, while 18 percent had a favorable opinion and just 3 percent unfavorable.
“A lot has shifted,” Tramutola said since the initial polling, “and a lot will shift in the next few months.” The District’s unsuccessful lawsuit with Sutter Health is not yet final. Potential damages may still be awarded to Sutter following the suit eventually forcing the District to award title to San Leandro Hospital.
A source tells The Citizen Sutter may demand damages from the District that includes a portion of its stake in Dublin Gateway Center and the San Leandro Surgery Center on East 14th Street. Such a transfer could have debilitating effects on the District’s future cash flow. Furthermore, it could stymie the District from any potential deal to fund part of San Leandro Hospital’s operating expenses over the next two years and beyond. A pledge last week offered half of the District’s cash flow over the next two years for potentially operating the hospital under the Alameda County Medical Center. The loss of Dublin Gateway and the surgery center could severely undercut the District’s ability to contribute to the ACMC endeavor, still pending negotiations with the county, Sutter, ACMC and the city of San Leandro.
Even if a parcel tax were successful in the District sometime in the future, it may not generate enough revenue, said Tramutola. At over 25,000 taxable properties, a manageable $50 parcel tax only generates $1.5 million annually, he said. There is also the possibility of working with leaders in San Leandro to help rescue their community hospital. Tramutola said city leaders may be cool to the idea.
In addition, a source tells The Citizen some District leaders have recently been unimpressed by San Leandro’s lack of effort for contributing to the costs of running the hospital in the future. The criticism is nothing new. Despite San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy raising the profile of the hospital’s uncertain future and becoming an advocate for its survival, like his predecessors and current council members, the city has taken a hands off approach when it comes to passing around the hat. Tramutola said the District needs to take its case directly to San Leandro residents, most of whom have little idea what can be done to save their hospital.“Most are dreadfully unaware of what’s going on.”