Berkeley City Council to talk impact of closing Alta Bates emergency services

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Ariel Hayat/File

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In response to growing community outcry over the proposed closure of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center by 2030, Berkeley City Council will discuss the impact of closing Berkeley’s only hospital Tuesday.

Berkeley’s Community Health Commission filed a Health Impact Assessment resolution about the proposed closure of emergency services at Alta Bates for the council to discuss at its regular Tuesday meeting. According to Andy Katz, a member of the Health Commission, the goal of the proposal is to confirm that City Council agrees that a health assessment should be conducted.

Katz emphasized that an assessment of the loss of local emergency services was critical to demonstrate why the city can’t afford to lose its hospital.

“We have a lot of information about the health impacts of closures of other hospitals,” Katz said. “We need (a) health impact assessment to determine the impacts of Alta Bates closing, so we can prevent the serious impacts to our community.”

Recently, the California State Assembly passed a bill that requires hospitals to receive the approval of the attorney general before closing their emergency departments. Although the bill aims to prevent hospitals from closing, it does not guarantee that Alta Bates’ emergency services will remain in the Ashby campus.

Sutter Health, which owns Alta Bates, decided to close the Ashby campus because California’s 2030 seismic regulations would deem the building ineligible for hospital use.

Alta Bates expressed in a statement that the Ashby campus itself will not be closed, but the campus’s services, employees and patients will be consolidated into the Oakland campus, leaving the Ashby campus without an emergency room.

“We are examining ways to repurpose the campus for medical services and/ or support staff office space that would carry less of an impact on the neighborhood, while complying with the state’s 2030 seismic regulations,” said Clayton Warren, spokesperson for Sutter Health, in an email.

Katz said City Council adopting the resolution is the first step in beginning a conversation about the serious health impacts of losing emergency services.

Contact Adrianna Buenviaje at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adriannaDC.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly named the Sutter Health spokesperson as Warren Clayton. In fact, his name is Clayton Warren.