Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Council members Lori Droste and Kate Harrison are proposing a $50,000 budget to support an outreach coordinator, who would educate the community about the health impacts of closing Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
In 2016, Sutter Health announced its intention to close the center, which is the city’s only full-service acute care hospital, by 2030. Sutter Health determined that the state-mandated earthquake safety upgrades are too costly to maintain the major functions of the hospital. It therefore plans to move all inpatients and emergency services to an expanded Summit Medical Campus in Oakland.
According to a September 2018 Rapid Health Impact Assessment, closing Alta Bates could have potentially significant consequences. These would include longer wait and response times for emergency medical services, as well as an increased risk during surge events such as natural disasters. Closing the hospital also disproportionately affects people of color, pregnant women and the homeless population, according to the assessment.
“People in the community will die who would not otherwise die because of their lack of access to a full-service, acute-care hospital, which of course, has been Alta Bates for decades,” said Jackie Dragon, a labor representative for Alta Bates with the California Nurses Association. “Based on the assessment, people with urgent needs for care will no longer be able to have access to an acute-care hospital and the emergency medical service transport.”
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar added that students should be aware that the removal of Alta Bates means they will have to be transported to Oakland during life-threatening medical situations.
The role of the outreach coordinator will be to share these findings with affected residents, as well as provide opportunities for the public to voice their concerns and interests through letter-writing campaigns and other community events.
According to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Arreguín, the coordinator would be funded by the jurisdictions in the Alta Bates Hospital service area, with Berkeley contributing $25,000 and other jurisdictions contributing $5,000 each, for a total of $50,000.
The coordinator will also be responsible for an overarching communications plan to unite various organizations and groups that have voiced opposition to Sutter Health about the closure of the hospital.
“The coordinator role is to really help to harness the incredible public momentum and concern over the potential loss of the hospital to our community and to bring those collected voices to bear on this corporation,” Dragon said. “(It) is the most important thing we can be doing right now. When every member of the community understands the health impacts of shutting down Alta Bates, we will be better equipped to fight Sutter Health and take care of the needs of the community.”