Cities, take a stand

Editorials

Three months after the Daughters of Charity Health System named their preferred buyer for medical facilities in South County, city councils in Gilroy and Morgan Hill still are mum
on the issue.
That sends the wrong message.
If their deafening silence continues, California Attorney General Kamala Harris will approve or reject the sale without official input from the cities most impacted.
Perhaps before it’s too late the councils need infusions of common sense.
Who’s silent when it comes to keeping or losing a hospital?
Who’s silent when it comes losing a business that pumps $200 million or so into the area economy annually and employs hundreds?
Who’s silent when a key indicator of a mature, vibrant and successful community is threatened with closure?
The two city councils, that’s who.
The Gilroy Camber of Commerce and the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, unlike the mums-the-word Morgan Hill Camber of Commerce, took stands, in support. Good for them!
They cited the need to keep quality medical care here and the facilities’ economic contribution to the region—a payroll in excess of $58 million and purchases of goods and services in the range of $130 million a year.
It’s a good bet that when you add up all the bells, whistles and catheters, the total probably hovers around $200 million.
Surely Gilroy’s mayor knew stands were being taken; he sits on the GEDC’s board of directors, whose vote to support was unanimous.
Perhaps South County mayors—both savvy political veterans—and their council colleagues have been too busy since the proposed sale was announced in October 2014 to agendize the issue. But that was four or five council meetings ago in each city.
And there was the distraction of the November election, and the holidays.
One reason cited by the mayors for the absence of official stands was that, to paraphrase almost word for word, “No one asked us to take a stand.”
Sure, the proposed sale of Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy and De Paul Medical Center in Morgan Hill – along with several others statewide – has ardent supporters and opponents. That’s to be expected when dealing with a healthcare delivery system that mainlines politics.
To be sure, the mayors and two council members spoke at a Gilroy public hearing Jan. 8., hosted by Deputy Attorney General Wendi Horwitz, to gather community input.
Neither mayor asked for approval of the sale. Or rejection.
Mayor Gage asked the attorney general to set politics aside and do what’s right for residents. He did not say what that is.
Mayor Tate’s comments were so tepidly non-committal the audience was heard to gasp. He merely urged Harris to support a deal that preserves De Paul.
To their credit, Morgan Hill councilmembers Rich Constantine and Gordon Siebert took public stands. They supported the sale of the Daughter’s facilities to Prime Healthcare.
That’s leadership.
Harris is charged with figuring out what’s best for the communities and killing or approving the sale—or approving it with conditions.
She was to do that by Feb. 6—a week from today—but the deadline was extended to Feb. 20 due to the big stack of materials to be digested.
It would be nice if atop that stack were ayes or nays or ayes-but-only-if stands from the elected representatives of the people who have to live or die with the Harris decision. You know, official positions from the city councils, letters or resolutions, strongly worded one way or the other—something instead of silence.
You don’t need a doctor to write that prescription for common sense.
Or guts.
PS: Shortly after the Dispatch queried mayors Gage and Tate about why their cities had not taken stands, the matter was placed on the Gilroy council’s Feb. 2 agenda, for a vote, and on Morgan Hill’s Feb. 4 for discussion only.

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