The Coastal Post - September, 1998

Critical Hospital District Election

By Norman F. Carrigg, M.D.

For many Marin residents by far the most important part of the ballot this coming November will be candidates for the Marin Healthcare District Board. The board oversees Sutter/Marin General Hospital.

Three candidates favor Sutter/MGH as is, the most lucrative hospital cash cow in the Sutter Heath, Scramento, herd. The other three candidates want the hospital returned to local control and want patient revenue plowed back into the hospital operation, not siphoned to Sacramento.

The three Sutter sycophants are Suzanna Coxhead, Dr. Hal Hassin and Dr. Gene Tolls. Coxhead is running for re-election after four undistinguished years on the elected board. Coxhead, along with Dr. Larry Bedard and Valerie Bergmann, at the behest of hospital CEO Henry J. Buhrmann, voted for a lopsided financial agreement with Sutter Health Corporation. With the largesse provided by that troika Sutter has the right to siphon Marin General cash any time there is more money in the till than needed for 14 days operation.

In sharp contrast to the sycophants I described is the trio of Dr. Lawrence Arnstein, Bernie Del Santo and Sylvia Siegel who want hospital control returned from Sacramento to our community. They want to stop the money siphoning and upgrade hospital care.

Currently the Marin Healthcare District Board is suing Sutter Health in Sacramento in an attempt to break a 1985 lease which made possible Sutter's capture of MGH. The suit basis is that in 1985 Marin General Hospital Chief Executive Officer Henry J. Burhmann and hospital attorney Quentin Cook allegedly violated California Government Code, Section 1090, when as public hospital district employees, they leased the hospital to themselves. At lease inception both jumped to the privatized hospital. What happened is not in question. The elected board contends that since both Burhmann and Cook benefited from a contract made as public employees the lease should be voided because of illegality.

The Marin Healthcare District Board case is strong. Three of the five current elected board members back the suit. The strategy of Sutter/MGH is predictable: Do everything possible to get Sutter sycophants on the board. Expect Sutter to spend buckets of money on this election. Money did not buy the 1996 election. Hopefully, it won't this November. The suit could be stopped cold by a wrong-headed elected board. If so, we might then be stuck with Sutter until lease expiration in 2015.

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