Berkeley City Council will vote on resolution to oppose Alta Bates closure

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The city of Berkeley may lose its only emergency room and hospital by 2030. City council members will vote on whether to ask Sutter Health to keep Alta Bates hospital open. (KGO-TV)

The city of Berkeley may lose its only emergency room and hospital by 2030. City council members will vote on whether to ask Sutter Health to keep Alta Bates hospital open.

If the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center closes, patients will be taken to the summit campus in Oakland.

On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council will vote to adopt a resolution asking the owner of the hospital, Sutter Health, to change its plans.

Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley is more than 100 years old. California's Hospital Act says all buildings must be seismically retrofitted by 2030. Sutter Health which owns Alta Bates has told hospital staff rebuilding on the current site is not feasible. "The closure of this hospital would leave an enormous hole in our community," Ann Gaebler said.

Gaebler is a nurse who works at the hospital. She says losing the 441 beds Alta Bates has to offer would not only impact Berkeley, but other neighboring cities like Albany, Emeryville, Richmond and El Cerrito. "The suggestion is that you have three beds for every 1,000 people in the community and right now I believe we are at about two beds," she said.

Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington says Sutter may be using this earthquake requirement as an excuse to consolidate services and save money.

Sutter Health released a statement saying: "Our goal is to bring all of our inpatient expertise under one roof," to their seismically safe building in Oakland.

"We're happy to meet with anyone from Sutter. Personally I have asked them to rescind their decision and come in to this with clean hands and make a decision based on data," Worthington said.

He says Sutter has not shared its engineering or financial feasibility studies with the city.

The Oakland Summit campus is less than three miles away from Alta Bates, but having a local hospital is important to many Berkeley residents. "I think of what if I have a heart attack, where do they take me? You know, it means minutes more can mean life or death," Berkeley resident Barbara Sonneborn said.
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