Alta Bates Medical Center CEO to resign amid hospital closure controversy

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Chuck Prosper, CEO of Alta Bates Medical Center, announced his resignation mid-February amid community opposition to the hospital’s planned closure, which would leave the city of Berkeley with a severe lack of emergency services.

Prosper’s last day is May 4, and Sutter Health, which owns Alta Bates, is currently searching for his replacement, according to a statement provided by Clayton Warren, the communications manager for Sutter Health in the Bay Area.

In October 2015, Sutter Health decided to close Alta Bates’ services because its building was deemed seismically unfit. The hospital’s services would be relocated to the Summit Campus in Oakland, which would require an additional response time of 12 minutes, according to Berkeley Fire Department chief David Brannigan.

Warren declined to comment when asked if Prosper’s resignation is related to Alta Bates’ planned closure. Dominic Chan, a spokesperson for the California Nurses Association, or CNA, said Prosper sent an email to Alta Bates staff announcing his resignation but did not give further information in the email.

Councilmember Ben Bartlett said Prosper’s resignation could signal a “change in course” for Sutter Health, and that Alta Bates leadership could be “more willing to negotiate with us and the community” after Prosper steps down.

“The business model they were embracing is one that would leave Berkeley in the midst of a health desert,” Bartlett said. “I’m hopeful that the new leadership could have a more benevolent perspective.”

In early February, more than 350 community members joined the CNA in a forum to protest Alta Bates’ potential closure. Speakers, including State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Mayor Jesse Arreguín, repeatedly expressed concern about the lack of local medical services that would come as a result of Alta Bates’ closure.

According to Chan, Prosper issued a press release confirming Alta Bates’ closure before the community forum took place. Chan added that Alta Bates leadership was “concerned” about the forum’s size and said it was “very clear that the community wants a full-service hospital in Berkeley.”

A similar demonstration occurred in November 2017, during which about 150 community members surrounded Alta Bates carrying signs that read “Save Alta Bates Hospital.”

Berkeley city officials are committed to keeping Alta Bates open, Arreguín said in a statement. He added that closing Alta Bates would be “deeply irresponsible,” considering that the city’s population is growing.

Councilmember Cheryl Davila echoed this sentiment, saying that recent fires emphasize Alta Bates’ importance to the Berkeley community.

“No matter who is in charge, we want to make sure that Sutter does the right thing of keeping a full-service hospital in Berkeley,” Chan said. “Hopefully they will appoint someone who is committed to that same mission, and even if they don’t, that won’t stop us.”

Contact Anjali Shrivastava at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.