Saving San Leandro Hospital Is A Rare Populist Success Story

SUNDAY COLUMN | After four years of uncertainty, San Leandro Hospital appears to have been saved, at least, for the next few years. However, the fits and starts that have been a hallmark of this community-fueled uprising to save its hospital, is far different than at any time in the last few years. The main difference: this deal excludes Sutter Health from the equation.

It is this single attribute that is entirely unique to the long struggle led by residents, politicians and the nurses union. The plan offered this week by Sutter Health hands over title to the facility to Alameda Health Systems (formerly Alameda County Medical Center) along with up to $22 million in subsidies to run the first year of operations. The plan keeps the emergency room open and expands the vacant fourth floor for acute rehabilitation services.

Eden Township Healthcare District Board
Director Dr. Vin Sawhney advocating for
keeping San Leandro Hospital open. 

It is the same plan that fell to the wayside earlier this year, except Sutter Health had only offered to lease the hospital to Alameda Health Systems and without the lucrative subsidy.

However, there is still work to be done. It is unclear whether we should put much trust in Alameda Health Systems CEO Wright Lassiter, a former Sutter co-conspirator. If San Leandro Hospital’s finances should go sideways in the next two years and its ER faces another round of uncertainty, don’t worry. Whereas, the threat to the ER used to mean facing down a cold, faceless corporation, it may entail in the future screaming at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors for safety net funding.

Despite what your complacent neighborhood news organization said this week, the saintly Sutter Health did not “donate” the hospital. Instead, Sutter Health capitulated. They laid down their arms and walked away. They finally viewed the headache associated with San Leandro Hospital, in terms of public relations, was less important than its entirely prosperous empire.

In times when Americans feel like they are powerless against immense financial and political interests, the people of sleepy San Leandro (of all places!) showed if we band together, the bad guys will scamper. The rich and powerful, in the back of their minds, are always aware there are way more of us than there are of them.

Quotable
“You can’t shoot people if you don’t have ammunition,”
-Assemblyman Bill Quirk, May 17 in Oakland, extolling the virtues of Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner’s bill to tax ammunition in the state, at an Assembly hearing on gun violence in the East Bay.

The Week That Was
>>>Haggerty Gets Dirty: Closed sessions at Alameda County Board of Supervisor’s meetings just got more intense. From the fallout of a lawsuit against Supervisor Scott Haggerty by his former chief of staff comes allegations he routinely objectified women and asked male staffers, “Who would you fuck? Wilma Chan or Gail Steele?”

>>>Oakland Looks Away: On second thought, the Oakland City Council will not discuss the contents of an explosive audit offered last March charging Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid with repeatedly violating the city’s charter against council members interfering with the business of city staff. Council President Pat Kernighan, in effect, said there is other more pressing matters to deal with. Earlier, the council also put off debarment of city contracts with Goldman Sachs for another two weeks.

>>>Disconnect: Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, Nancy Skinner and Bill Quirk, along with State Sen. Loni Hancock all posed for news cameras Friday advocating for tougher gun control measures following a three-hour hearing on the subject inside the State Building in Oakland. However, community leaders, instead, continually pressed for more funding to help the lives of the youth before they turn to solving problems with firearms.

>>>Zermeno First In For Hayward Mayor: In a surprise move, Councilmember Francisco Zermeno announced he will run for mayor in 2014. Mayor Michael Sweeney is said to be uncertain whether he will run for a third term. Zermeno nearly lost his seat on the council last June and if Sweeney runs, things could get caliente. Sweeney, Zermeno and former school trustee Jesus Armas all play on a basketball team named “Los Chilones.”

>>>Quan’s 2014 Opponents: Port of Oakland Commissioners Bryan Parker and Gilda Gonzales are looking at possibly running against Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. So is City Auditor Courtney Ruby and professor and community activist Joe Tuman. More names are likely to show interest in the next few weeks.

>>>’It’s News To Us’: Although the long San Leandro Hospital saga is nearing a positive conclusion, nobody bothered to tell the Eden Township Healthcare District they may have to commit institutional suicide in order to make the deal work. Supervisor’s Wilma Chan’s plan asks the District to pay $20 million in subsidies for the second year of operations at the hospital. The District, though, knew nothing about the plan and say their assets are worth $29 million; largely from one asset that conversely generates the most revenue.

Tweet of the Week
“Jean Quan shared a bunch of photos from a roller derby match on FB. That means they’re probably going to move to the South Bay too.”
-@OakScott, making light May 12 of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s perennial problem with keeping its sports teams content.

Best Reads
>>>Sometimes the best way to understand what is around you is through the lens of someone outside looking in. Here is an article describing the bare bones Oakland Police Department. (Los Angeles Times, May 18).

>>>In a progressive city like Oakland, it seems more cops are never the answer. But, over the years, with a rapidly shrinking police force, even progressives are sheepishly rethinking this argument, but should they? (East Bay Express, May 15).

Voice of the People
“Is a gang member really going to say, “Oh darn, that bullet costs 10% more, I guess I won’t do my drive-by shooting now”? Less guns do not mean less guns for criminals…”
Anonymous, commenting May 18 on “East Bay Legislators Call For Stringent Gun Control Laws.”