Residents offer thoughts on hospital affiliation proposal

Residents offer thoughts on hospital affiliation proposal

Michele Ellson
Alameda Hospital

Residents who attended a public information session Thursday on a proposal for Alameda Hospital to become an affiliate of the county medical system wanted to know more about the financial health of the county system, whether they would continue to pay the parcel tax they’re charged each year to support the hospital – and whether the parking problems that already exist there will get worse.

Thursday’s information session was the first of four public meetings planned by hospital leaders to lay out the details of the proposal, which the boards governing Alameda Hospital and Alameda Health System, formerly known as Alameda County Medical Center, have agreed to pursue. A deal could be inked in September or October, and the county system could assume management of Alameda Hospital by the start of 2014.

Sam Moriana said he’s gotten “exemplary” care at the hospital and he wants it to remain open.

“I think the bottom line is, we want to keep the hospital in Alameda,” Moriana said.

But others said they’re concerned about the risks an affiliation with the Alameda Health System could pose. Janet Waring, who said that she also wants Alameda Hospital to remain open, questioned whether the county will be able to provide the $27 million hospital managers said they expect to get for mandated seismic upgrades, an electronic health records system and other items.

“There really needs to be a huge effort to look at whether the risk that’s being taken is going to provide what you think you’re going to get,” Waring said.

Hospital managers have been seeking out a partner since 2010 at the direction of the health care district board, as one of several strategies aimed at stabilizing Alameda Hospital’s shaky finances. Board member Jordan Battani said the hospital’s leaders looked at several dozen potential partners before settling into negotiations with the county system.

Under the proposed deal, Alameda Health System would assume management of Alameda Hospital, providing funds for seismic upgrades, an electronic health records system and other needed maintenance along with a line of credit to help the hospital pay off outstanding bills. In return, the county system could use some of the hospital’s empty operating rooms and acute care beds for patients whose elective surgeries are routinely canceled to make space for trauma patients.

After a deal is inked, property owners will continue to pay a $298-a-year parcel tax to support the hospital that voters approved in 2002, a deal point that led to a heated exchange between a hospital staffer and a resident who said he thinks voters, and not the hospital’s board, should decide whether the deal should be signed.

“I think the public has the right to decide whether or not we want to be affiliated with this, rather than the directors of the board,” Kurt Peterson said, adding that the deal would bring a number of off-Island patients who aren’t paying the tax into the hospital.

Claudine Dutaret, who identified herself as the director of the hospital’s stroke care program, said Alameda Hospital will close if the deal with the county doesn’t go through.

“If you want to vote on it on your referendum, go for it,” Dutaret said. “If the affiliation doesn’t go through, I guarantee you your doors are going to close. And if that’s what you want, go ahead and vote no.”

If Alameda’s health care district board fails to authorize collection of the parcel tax or if voters rescind it, taxpayers could be on the hook for up to five years’ worth of tax collections in order to repay the county system for funds it has provided. (If the county system defaults on the deal after it is signed, the health care district board would be relieved of those obligations and would no longer be required to collect the tax.) And that prompted school board trustee Trish Herrera Spencer to ask for more information on the potential risks of the deal.

Battani said that if the hospital shut down – which hospital leaders have cast as a likely scenario if the affiliation deal doesn’t go through – they would be facing a similar amount of debt and that in either scenario, the parcel tax would continue to be collected in order to pay it off – even if voters say they no longer want to pay it.

“If there was a referendum right now, and the hospital had outstanding debts at that time, which it would, the parcel tax would have to continue to be assessed and paid and collected until the debts are resolved,” Battani said.

Additional public forums on the proposal are set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 23 at Mastick Senior Center and 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 29 at the Harbor Bay Isle Community Center, and an additional West End meeting is being planned for early August. The hospital’s chief executive officer, Deborah E. Stebbins, said she’s willing to meet with other groups who want more information on the deal.

Related: Alameda Hospital in affiliation talks

Hospital board votes to proceed on county takeover proposal


Submitted by David on Fri, Jun 28, 2013

The hospital has become an albatross around taxpayers necks, as was the Cable TV and Telecom Division of Alameda power before it was sold off.

Likewise, the Hospital should be sold to an operator with the financial wherewithal to operate it, probably at a reduced level - E.R. and acute care - and taxpayers should be relieved of the $298 annual parcel tax expense. (Some of which they can redirect to the 20% EBMUD water/sewer rate increases.)

I understand that Ms. Dutaret does not live in Alameda, so she does not have to pay the tax. How much is she paid as stroke director? Her salary isn't on the BANG 2012 salary database, nor in the data release by Alameda Hospital last summer. She clearly has incentive to keep the rest of us paying the tax to keep the hospital open.

Remember that in 2002, the parcel tax was billed as a savior for the Hospital, the last great hope to keep it open, etc.

How many 'going out of business' sales can one Hospital have?

Submitted by Nurse Gigi on Fri, Jun 28, 2013

I understand that people may assume that the people that benefit the most financially would like to see this deal go through.
Currently, I work as a registered nurse at Alameda Hospital. Albeit only two years, I feel quite fortunate to be able to provide quality care to the city of Almeda and the surrounding communities.
To assume that we aren't already serving non-taxpayers would be foolish. The amount of rental properties within the city are numerous. Renters do not pay parcel taxes last time I checked.
I do not benefit financially from this deal as much as board members or the doctors, shoot my nursing wages are probably some of the lowest in the Bay Area. But, what I do benefit.from
is the pride I feel when I can really see the difference our little hospital makes in our patients lives and their families.
So being very naive about this deal and far from money hungry, I really hope that Alamefa Hospital can keep its doors open so that selfishly I still have the best job in the world.

Submitted by David on Sat, Jun 29, 2013

There isn't really anything in this affiliation deal for the average citizen - the parcel tax won't go away, the local health care board won't go away, it hasn't been confirmed yet that there will be cost savings by eliminating the six-figure salary executive positions at the hospital, and instead of one bureaucracy with their hands in our pockets, there will soon be two - the existing health care district and Alameda Health System, the former Alameda County Medical Center.

The hospital is underutilized, and that's why it's losing money. Outside of an emergency, there's no particularly good reason to go to Alameda Hospital over Alta Bates, Eden, Kaiser, or the Kaiser medical center in Alameda. The hospital isn't even well-served by public transit - the 51A route is blocks away.

A greatly trimmed down E.R./Acute care facility would serve the vast majority of Alameda's needs quite nicely. I'm sure the Alameda Fire Department would be delighted to handle the transport of stabilized patients from the ER center to Hospitals off-island for in-patient and long term care.

And, yes, renters pay the tax indirectly - it's one of many costs that landlords factor that into setting rents.