The Coastal Post - September, 1997

Give Marinites Their Hospital Back

The above-captioned November 24, 1987 lead editorial of the Examiner asked about the 1985 privatization of Marin General. "If going private was such a good idea, why didn't trustees submit it for voter approval?"

Quietly in 1985, the residents of the Marin Healthcare District (all of Marin except Novato) were scammed. The votes of five elected hospital directors were enough to turn the hospital over to Henry J. Buhrmann, et al. Hank was then and is now the CEO of MGH. In 1985, his Marin General Hospital Corp. acquired all hospital cash, accounts receivables, etc. The hospital lease was written by his choice of attorney for the district, Quentin Cook.

The lease is so loose that patient revenue can be siphoned out, used for any purpose and need not be repaid. As one can imagine, that happened and happens in spades.

Quentin Cook quickly switched sides in 1985 to become the lawyer for the privatized hospital. In 1986, Marin General became a California Healthcare System member. CHS sopped up millions of MGH dollars "for the benefit of Marin County." The agile Quentin Cook, who was the MGH Corp. lawyer eventually, also became the CEO of CHS, and paid himself $311,479 in 1995, coming close to Buhrmann's $379,401 salary as CEO of MGH. In 1996, CHS and MGH merged into Sutter Health, Sacramento.

Under Sutter, patient care at MGH is anything but adequate. Fortunately, the November, 1996 election changed the elected board's makeup. Three of five directors are consumer advocates. Immediately after the November election, the hospital corporation hired Al Bianchi, the corporation lawyer, to assist in mediation as an obvious alternative to voiding the 1985 lease. (The elected board of El Camino Hospital, Mountain View, in court voided their Quentin Cook leases to become an unencumbered district hospital again.)

Mediation as of August 20 clearly has been a stalling technique of the hospital corporation. So the elected board may be forced to do what the directors of El Camino Hospital did, sue to retrieve their hospital.

Suit should not be necessary. The hospital corporation should return the hospital to the people who own it, the residents of the healthcare district. A suit sops up monies which could be used for patient care.

The elected board will prevail because of the same conflicts of interest as in Mountain View. If the hospital corporation does not do the right thing, which is returning the hospital, suit is the only appropriate alternative.

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