Berkeley City Council votes unanimously to oppose Alta Bates closure

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to oppose the closure of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and increase housing development in the Telegraph Commercial District.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, alongside Councilmembers Lori Droste and Laurie Capitelli, submitted a resolution unanimously voted for by the council against the closing of Alta Bates hospital. The resolution asked Sutter Health Corporation, which owns Alta Bates, not to “put profit before lives.”

“This hospital is our community hospital. Alta Bates not only serves the city of Berkeley but also Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond and beyond,” said Alta Bates nurse Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto at the meeting. “Where are we supposed to go?”

In a letter sent to Mayor Tom Bates and council members that was reviewed during the meeting, Sutter Health Corporation said the city resolution contained numerous inaccuracies and drew conclusions about future healthcare delivery not supported by facts.

A state law passed in 1994 required that all hospital buildings be retrofitted by 2030 in order to withstand major earthquakes. Alta Bates was declared seismically unfit, which led to the decision to move Alta Bates’ services to Oakland.

Sutter Health Corporation said in the letter that it is committed to a strong medical presence in the city of Berkeley and that it envisions Berkeley as its center for outpatient care in the East Bay. It said that rebuilding on the current site in Berkeley is not feasible.

“This is going to result in poor patient outcomes and death,” said Alta Bates cardiac nurse Stephanie Patten at the meeting. “Sutter’s continued pursuit of profit on top of their … assets is unacceptable and the price paid by our community is too high.”

An exact date for the final transition has not been released, but Sutter Health intends to retain all services, patients, physicians and clinicians. About 50 community members – most of whom were Alta Bates employees – met outside the City Hall during the meeting to protest the proposed closure.

At the meeting, the council also unanimously passed a resolution for the city to amend its zoning ordinance to allow increased housing development in the Telegraph Commercial District between Dwight Way and Bancroft Way. Worthington submitted the recommendation, noting that developments would be beneficial to business around the area.

In order to developing additional housing, Worthington also proposed that a previous proposal recommending an increase in the maximum height allowed for main buildings adjacent to Bancroft Way be applied to the entirety of the Telegraph Commercial District north of Dwight Way.

“I can’t think of any other place where the people want this,” Worthington said at the meeting. “If they want it, we should give it to them.”

Contact Cassie Ippaso at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @cassippaso.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Maxwell Anderson submitted a resolution against the closure of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. In fact, it was councilmembers Lori Drosti and Laurie Capitelli.

A previous version of this article named the Alta Bates nurse who spoke at the meeting as Michelle Okimoto. In fact, her name was Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto.