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October 2000

Important Vote for Marin Healthcare District


By Normanb Carrigg, M.D.

This Nov. 7 when you vote for the most appealing (or least worrisome) presidential candidate, be sure to consider the candidates for the Marin Healthcare District board. Your appropriate vote is necessary for us to maintain the board as strongly pro-consumer.

Hospital care nationwide, because of underfunded government programs, managed care, and too often corporate greed, is enormously in need of upgrading. A Sept. 10 front page article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (which originated at the Chicago Tribune) noted: "Overwhelmed and inadequately trained nurses kill and injure thousands of patients every year as hospitals sacrifice safety for the bottom line."

The thinness of hospital nursing care is nationwide and a Marin problem as well. Rns have been replaced, to a great extent, by lesser trained individuals. Lesser trained individuals give lesser care. That's reality.

MGH, which opened its doors to patients in 1952, is owned by residents of the Healthcare District (all of Marin except Novato). They paid for it!

In 1985, quietly and with inadequate media coverage, the elected board granted the request of the hospital CEO, Henry J. Buhrmann, and the hospital lawyer, Quentin Cook, to lease the hospital to a private corporation. Late in 1985, millions of dollars of hospital assets were transferred to a shell corporation. Buhrmann and Cook, public employees, assumed identical positions in the privatized hospital. Gary Giacomini, a Marin County supervisor at the time, called the lease "the biggest theft of public property in Marin's history." The lease is now in the hands of Sacramento-based Sutter Health. Millions of dollars of patient revenue are siphoned annually to Sacramento on one-way trips.

In 1997, the elected board voted to sue (in Sacramento Superior Court) to void the 1985 lease. Thanks to Sutter/MGH frivolous motions and sideshows, the cost to both sides has been enormous. In a preliminary ruling, a Sacramento judge found the suit tardy as the four year statue of limitations had expired. What happened in 1985 is not in dispute. However, district lawyers contend that there is no statue of public property based on case law. I expect the suit, now at the appellate level, to be decided in favor of the district.

Expect Sutter to spend buckets of money in an attempt to seat board candidates who are Sutter sycophants. Don't be fooled. There are three seats up for grabs but only three strong consumer advocates. To ensure that the suit is not dropped and the public's interest not abandoned, it is mandatory to elect the following three candidates: Dr. Diana Parnell and Dr. John Severinghaus deserve re-election. Esther Blau, R.N., the third candidate, is a MGH nurse who has been a strong patient advocate for years. When you go to the polls, remember PBS for Parnell, Blau, and Severinghaus.

When MGH returns to community control, the siphoning of patient revenue will cease and the community once again will benefit from its hospital.

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