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Alameda Hospital Doctor, Board Member, Denies Conflict of Interest

Dr. Robert Deutsch, M.D., a member of the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors, which oversees Alameda Hospital, has denied that his presence on the board of the District which has oversight over the Hospital with whom he contracts to provide services to represents a conflict of interest.

Records obtained by Action Alameda News show that Dr. Deutsch, who was appointed to the District board in 2007 and who was re-elected last month, show that his practice, East Bay Pulmonary Group, has a contract with Alameda Hospital for supervision of the Respiratory Therapy Department for the amount of $84,000 per year. Additionally, “Robert Deutsch, M.D., Inc. A” has a contract with the Hospital to serve as a medical director for the Skilled Nursing/Subacute Care Unit for $1000 per month, plus $125 per hour, for up to eight additional hours of services per month. The total contract values come to over $100,000 per year.

Dr. Deutsch also runs his medical practice out of Alameda Hospital, renting space on the third floor of the Hospital for $1,985/month, as of March 1, 2010.

As a member of the Board of Directors, Dr. Deutsch must vote each year whether or not to approve the annual levy of the District’s tax of $298/parcel, which raises about $6 million in funds to keep the Hospital open. Action Alameda News reviewed meeting minutes from 2009 and 2010 and found that in both years, Dr. Deutsch voted to approve the levy of the tax. In a terse response to an Action Alameda News inquiry about the potential for conflict-of-interest, Dr. Deutsch wrote:

The question you raise has been answered by the California Legislature which has determined that the ability of members of hospital district medical staffs to participate fully on district boards of directors should not be impeded by the existence of contracts where similar contracts exist with other medical staff members and the amounts payable under the contracts are no greater than the amounts payable under similar contracts with other physicians covering the same or similar services. The Legislature thus clarified in the California Health and Safety Code that the existence of such contracts would not create the type of legal barrier/conflict-of-interest that would preclude the type of action about which you inquired. The Legislature concluded that medical staff members bring unique health care knowledge and perspective to district board membership that enhance the collective ability of a district board to carry out its responsibilities, and that the participation of such medical staff members on district boards should not be discouraged or limited by the existence of these types of contracts.

In addition, I vote each year to continue the parcel tax to support the hospital’s operations because I believe that is what the majority of the residents of Alameda want, as evidenced by their voting patterns as well as the thousands of interactions I have each year with them professionally and socially. I received 10,900 votes in the last election, running on a platform of supporting our local district hospital as a critical asset to the quality and safety of life in Alameda. Thus, not to vote on continuing to provide parcel tax funds for the purpose of assisting hospital operations would be illogical and inconsistent with my position and beliefs. I would, of course, recuse myself from any vote on any issue that had direct bearing on the contracts that my medical group has with the hospital.

I am also surprised that there are “activists” that are trying to destroy a community hospital that has served local residents for over 100 years, that helps save our lives on a daily basis, that provides a broad array of basic and complex medical care close to our homes, and has received a two thirds vote of financial support from Alamedans just a few years ago. I can understand constructive criticism of a public service organization to prod it to improve performance, but much of what I have seen on your blog recently is misinformed, negative and accusatory. I would be happy to respond in the future to civil requests for information that can inform or give my perspective on issues related to Alameda Hospital.

Sincerely,

Robert Deutsch M.D.

Just two days ago, Alameda County changed emergency medical services protocols for the County to remove a preference for Alameda Hospital that directed paramedics to take stroke victims in the city of Alameda to Alameda Hospital, which is not a certified stroke center, instead of to a regional stroke center in Alameda County, but outside of Alameda.

8 comments to Alameda Hospital Doctor, Board Member, Denies Conflict of Interest

  • DHL

    This “activist” considers it “constructive criticism” to point out the inconsistency between the patient care that Alameda hospital can provide to a emergency CVA victim and what contemporary emergency medical science and standards dictate which is available at nearby Certified Stroke Centers.

    Although those in leadership at the hospital would have us believe arriving at Alameda Hospital sooner is better—they keep defending their (indefensible) argument for the EMS stroke transport preference to Alameda Hospital, saying small differences in minutes matter when dealing with an acute brain attacks (true)–they continually fail to mention that what then matters most is patient care WITHIN a specialized stroke system from field through to hospital diagnostics and treatment. What they continue to imply is that just getting the a hospital, any hospital, the soonest for a CVA victim is what matters. However, when there’s a Certified Stroke Center available nearby like we have here in the SF Bay Area, within minutes again (perhaps one or two minutes further out than Alameda Hospital), the chances for brain-cell retention are highest, the chances for surviving with the least amount of brain damage is highest, and therefore, the probabilities for best quality of life and longevity are highest. Why do those in positions of responsibility at our hospital consider what I’ve pointed out–and what the County EMS clearly considers an important thing to reverse, having done so post haste—a bad thing? What is wrong with my criticism that it does not provide optimum patient care? One would think they’d side with medical facts and the federal, state, and county EMS patient care standards for CVA victims (which were developed by top neurologists!). WHY does OUR hospital not agree with medical science? It’s opprobrious at best. I cannot understand how our elected hospital board members and their CEO can continue speaking about this issue in this manner. When will even one of them stand up for us on this issue, the people who give them $5.7m per year and DESERVE optimum medical care????

  • DHL

    It seems to me that the conflict of interest is self-evident. If there were no conflict of interest, wouldn’t Dr. Deutsch side with the County, with medical science and EMS standards, on the EMS stroke transport issue?

  • […] of Interest? You Decide. By Denise Lai Read Action-Alameda’s article today here.  It includes a letter from Dr. Deutsch, hospital board member.  Tell me what you think. Is there […]

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ActionAlameda, Alameda Buzz. Alameda Buzz said: Alameda Hospital Doctor, Board Member, Denies Conflict of Interest: Dr. Robert Deutsch, M.D., a member of the… http://dlvr.it/9fdKc […]

  • Barb

    Clearly has the potential to be a confict of interest under Government Code 1090 et. seq. 1090: Members of the Legislature, state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members. Nor shall state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees be purchasers at any sale or vendors at any purchase made by them in their official capacity.
    As used in this article, “district” means any agency of the state
    formed pursuant to general law or special act, for the local
    performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited
    boundaries.”

    As I understand it, as long as the director or board memeer has absolutely no monetary interest, it is OK. So as long as the good doctor makes no money, accepts no benefits, and has no patients that go to Alameda Hospital, it is probably OK. Also there is no statute of limiations and damages are trebled. So violating the statute has some serious long term ramifications. And of course there is an opportunity for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to anyone who sues and wins.

  • We consulted with a California MD who did not want to go on the record. However, this MD claims to have served on boards, and asserted that Dr. Deutsch would be in conflict of interest per 1090 and that he wouldn’t even have to vote on any issues pertaining to his contract, that it would be a conflict simply that the Hospital enters contracts with his practice. Note also that the Hospital probably wouldn’t exist to pay for his contract if not for the parcel tax which he, by his own admission, votes in favor of each year.

  • DHL

    SHOCKING what is de rigueur in this town.

  • DHL

    Found the loophole in the new County EMS stroke protocols, and we get substandard emergency stroke care at/after 4-hours after stroke onset: http://notoz.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/the-ems-loophole/

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