John Muir Health, UCSF Health open Berkeley Outpatient Center amid pending closure of Alta Bates hospital

Ana Isabel Diaz /File

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Berkeley Outpatient Center, a joint project between John Muir Health and UCSF Health, opened Tuesday on San Pablo Avenue.

Berkeley Outpatient Center patients will have access to primary and preventive care, urgent care and lab and imaging services, according to an FAQ on John Muir Health’s website.

The opening of the outpatient center comes at the time of the imminent closure of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, despite protests from community members.

“While offering medical treatment and many specialties, the outpatient center does not replace Alta Bates hospital which has a full service emergency room,” said Karina Ioffee, Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s spokesperson, in an email.

UCSF declined to comment.

According to Tang Center spokesperson Tami Cate, having another local health center offers additional choices for UC Berkeley students who may not be on the Student Health Insurance Plan, or SHIP.

Cate said she believes the outpatient center will be expanding its hours and services.

According to Ioffee, if Alta Bates closes and all services move to the Oakland campus, paramedic response time would increase in a number of areas, ranging from Berkeley to Pinole. When asked what impact the Alta Bates closure would have on the city, Ioffee noted that in 2014, the Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley had about 6,500 births, about 30,000 discharges, more than 90,000 emergency room visits and nearly 275,000 outpatient visits.

About 150 community members from the local community protested the closure of the Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley on Nov. 5, 2017.

“Corporate people don’t think about the communities they serve,” said Eric Koch, a nurse at the Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley, in a previous interview with The Daily Californian. “They think about the money. We’re here to remind them it’s really about the people, not the money.”

In order to prevent the closure, the California State Senate passed SB 687— authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — in May 2017, which prevents nonprofit hospitals, such as Alta Bates, from closing emergency rooms without permission from the state attorney general. A resolution supporting SB 687 was unanimously approved by Berkeley City Council on April 25, 2017.

According to the FAQ on Alta Bates’ website, the Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley does not have room to operate while simultaneously undergoing new construction, and California’s seismic regulations will make the campus ineligible for inpatient hospital care.

All acute care hospital and emergency services will be moved to the Summit Campus in Oakland.

“It is unconscionable to close a hospital at a time when the population of the city and region are growing,” Ioffee said in an email. “We must do everything in our power to save our hospital.”

Contact Suryan Bhatia at [email protected].