By Steven Tavares.
A bill with the stated intent of dissolving the East Bay’s Eden Health District passed an Assembly committee last week, but not without the publicly-elected body charging the legislation undermines local control.
Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk, the author of Assembly Bill 2471, said the Eden Health District (formerly Eden Township Healthcare District) no longer serves its founding purpose to provide health care services to the region because it no longer operates a hospital and spent just 15 percent of its budget last year on health-related community grants. The rest, said Quirk, was used to pay salaries and other administrative costs.
Two weeks ago, a bill from Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta over the subject of the district’s efficacy, passed the same committee. Assembly Bill 2737, however, would require the Eden Healthcare District earmark at least 80 percent of its annual operating budget to healthcare grants within the district, which represents around 360,000 residents in Hayward and unincorporated Alameda County.
Testifying before the Assembly Local Government Committee, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday said, “It seems clear the district has outlived its usefulness and dissolution could provide much needed funds to directly fund health care-related institutions in the district that are providing those services.”
Eden Healthcare District’s assets could be split, said Halliday, between the area’s two struggling hospital facilities—Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital and San Leandro Hospital.
San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter also spoke in favor of Quirk’s legislation, in addition, to a representative from Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan’s office.
Some, however, believes Quirk’s bill undermines the discretion of the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), which oversees the boundaries and public jurisdictions in the county.
Dion Aroner, a former East Bay assemblymember and now consultant for the Eden Health District told the committee, local officials are trying to poach its assets merely to prop up underperforming hospitals. “This is an attempt at a short-term solution for two hospitals who will once again find themselves short on revenue even if this is approved,” said Aroner.
In addition, Aroner said the legal strategy employed by the district to ultimately save San Leandro Hospital from closure starting in 2010 resulted in it paying a $20 million judgment to Sutter Health. It’s a strategy, said Aroner, supported by many of the same local official calling today for the district’s dissolution.