The Coastal Post - February, 1998

Marin General: The Lease, The Future

By Norman Carrigg

For those who still happen to believe that the 1996 acquisition of Marin General Hospital by Sutter health of Sacramento was a big favor to Marin residents, the San Francisco Weekly of January 21-27 is mandatory reading, available by internet:

Lisa Davis, a superb investigative reporter, details how "non-profit" Sutter Health operates, in fact, exactly like an avaricious for-profit corporation. However, Sutter Health is tax exempt. For example., Sutter Health CEO Van Johnson pays himself $830,000+ per annum. Multi-dipper Marinite Henry J. Buhrmann makes close to $500,000 per annum.

Siphoning money from a non-profit to a for-profit entity is legal. Marin General, a hospital owned by residents of the Marin Healthcare District (all of Marin except Novato), has been a victim of that since its 1985 privatization. Siphoned money is patient revenue diverted from patient care. For years privatized Marin General had diverted millions of dollars, but that role has now been assumed by Sutter Health.

There is hope. In November 1996, the elected Marin Healthcare District Board changed. For the first time in years it has three consumer advocates as directors. The board filed suit in Sacramento, Sutter corporate headquarters, to convert the hospital back to district status. Back in 1985, the hospital administrator, Henry J. Buhrmann, and the hospital's lawyer, Quentin Cook, talked the elected board into "leasing" the hospital to Buhrmann, et al, for 30 years. Buhrmann and Cook were then public employees. It is violation of California Government Code, Section 1090, for a public employee to make contracts that benefit himself. Both Buhrmann and Cook left public employment to join the private Marin General Hospital Corp. The lease, therefore, is illegal. Buhrmann and cook graciously supplied all the necessary evidence to make the district board's case solid.

What happens when and if the lease is voided? The responsibility for running MGH will revert back to the elected board. I do not anticipate that the board will hook up with a chain such as Sutter. Monies will cease to be siphoned out and can be used for improved patient care. Buhrmann, Cook, and Sutter Health will be history.

A hospital privatized with the assistance of Quentin Cook, El Camino of Mountain View, has done exceedingly well since it reverted to district hospital status. Like El Camino, Marin General may some time operate openly, honestly and profitably.

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