Sutter’s Change Of Heart Gives East Bay Officials Hope For San Leandro Hospital

St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco

SAVE SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | Good news across the bay in San Francisco over Sutter Health’s deal to rebuild St. Luke’s Hospital and construct a smaller scale facility at Cathedral Hill is being viewed cautiously as a hopeful sign for the future of San Leandro Hospital.

The fight by community members in San Francisco’s Mission District, along with the nurses’ union to keep St. Luke’s open in many ways paralleled the struggle in the East Bay. Like San Leandro Hospital, the facility primarily serves a high number of poor and underinsured patients. After years of negotiations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is on the path to approving a deal with Sutter that should lock the health care behemoth into expanding service in that area for the foreseeable future.

Some labor leaders on this side of the bay have held the opinion Sutter Health will not act upon dealing with San Leandro Hospital, which an appellate court last year awarded to them following a three-year legal battle with the Eden Township Healthcare District, until it concluded negotiations in San Francisco. On both side of the bay, Sutter’s unwillingness to budge on its stated goals has been as sure as the sun setting under the Golden Gate. Its change of heart, however, has raised the attention of some East Bay officials.

“They did something they said they would never do,” said Alex Briscoe, the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services this week. However, Briscoe said the county, at least, has not had any contact recently with Sutter over San Leandro’s Hospital near-term future.

On Wednesday, Carole Rogers, the chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District, during a special meeting on the agency’s role in local health care, said the possibility of it supporting San Leandro Hospital in the future “is not off the table.” She also said district aid for Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital is still in the mix, or even that both facilities could one day receive support from the healthcare district.

Sutter officials have indicated a desire to close San Leandro Hospital as an acute general hospital with 24-hour emergency room services. Sutter says the facility is hemorrhaging in steep monthly losses and would better serve Alameda County as an acute rehabilitation center. Community members and the nurses union, however, have vehemetly opposed the possibility of losing its emergency room out of concern for people’s lives.

“Hopefully it’s a sign that Sutter Health is looking at a plan for San Leandro,” said Dev Mahadevan, the District’s CEO. Although, at the same time, he was also skeptical. “Just because they do something in San Francisco, it doesn’t men they’ll do it here.”

When jokingly asked whether Sutter’s new strategy came from sort of corporate heart transplant, Vin Sawhney, a long-time District board member and harsh critic of the health care provider disagreed. “I would say they are learning how to cooperate within a community.”

Despite continued silence from Sutter over finalizing San Leandro Hospital’s fate, Briscoe told The Citizen last January, if they move to close the facility, it would likely not occur before the spring of 2014, sometime after the opening of Kaiser Permanente’s San Leandro facility currently under construction near Marina Boulevard.