The Coastal Post - July 1999

MGH And The Grand Jury

By Norman Carrigg, M.D.

Usually the civil Marin Grand Jury is pro-consumer. Not so with the jury's recent call for the Marin Healthcare District to enter into binding arbitration, thus ending a lawsuit being heard in Sacramento.

The elected five-member Healthcare Board is suing Sutter Health, Sacramento, to recover control of Marin General, a hospital built and paid for by residents of the Healthcare District. Millions flow annually from MGH to Sacramento on one-way trips.

The well-meaning jurors do not comprehend that Sutter Health is not going to give up easily control of one of its most lucrative hospital cash cows.

The hospital scam dates back to 1985 when Henry J. Buhrmann, its administrator, and Quentin Cook, its attorney, wrote a lease to themselves which the five elected directors accepted. Both men were public employees when they created Marin General Hospital Corporation and assumed their same positions in the privatized hospital. The hospital, after privatization in 1985, operated and operates behind closed doors.

Every two years voters of the Marin Healthcare District (all of Marin except Novato) elect two or three directors. From 1985 to 1996 the Board was dominated by hospital corporation sycophants. 1996 was the year of big change. Voters recalled two hospital corporation lapdogs, and replaced them with Linda Remy and Sylvia Siegel. What with Dr. Diane Parnell on the Board already, the Board's 1996 majority of three was pro-consumer.

After the November, 1996, election the three consumer advocates began the legal quest to return Marin General Hospital to community control. What Buhrmann and Cook did in 1985 violated California Government Code, Section 1090. However, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the four-year statute of limitations prevents the community from regaining hospital control. The judge erred. There is California case law, as Linda Remy pointed out in the May Coastal Post, to support the elected board: No statute of limitations bars the public from recovering its unlawfully transferred assets.

Marin needs a strong, independent district hospital. Hopefully, the California Supreme Court will make it possible.

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