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Update on Alta Bates Closure

By YASMEEN O’BRIEN

The conversation over the closure of Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley continues to resurface as the closure date draws nearer.

In a forum on the KQED radio channel, the medical director at the Alta Bates Emergency Department, Dr. Brian Potts, talked about this issue being a matter of the feasibility to rebuild the Alta Bates campus. The buildings were built to fit the regulations of 1970, and the laws California has since passed require a higher mandate for seismic safety that Sutter Health has said it cannot afford.

Many community members are concerned about not having a hospital near their houses. Additionally, Sutter Health has not released how much the renovation would cost to the City of Berkeley, despite the mayor’s requests to see an estimate. This adds to the community’s concerns that Sutter Health’s decision to close the hospital may not be necessary. Although the Oakland campus will remain open, residents are worried that the closure will create a “healthcare desert” for many.

Julie Sinai offered her insight as the Chief Strategy Officer for LifeLong Medical Care, a health center that serves low-income individuals, saying “It’s very important for low-income residents to have access to all aspects of health care, primary care, specialty care, and emergency services. … With increased primary care and prevention, along with healthy environments and life-styles, we will see the demand for hospital beds and ER reduce.”

Sinai also provided solutions for those who rely on Alta Bates hospital: “From LifeLong’s perspective, our main concern is that low-income, under-represented communities have access to emergency services. …In the beginning of 2020, [LifeLong Medical Care] will open a second urgent care site in Richmond, at our William Jenkins Health Center.”

Berkeley High School senior, Gaby Sandel, who was born at Alta Bates Hospital, echoed this sentiment. “When Alta Bates closes it will be really devastating … it is such an important institution that many people rely on, even outside of Berkeley,” she said.

Sandel continued to comment on the lasting effects of the hospital’s closure: “I can’t think of a solution to this problem that would solve all the issues the closure poses, but I think that we will have to rely on other healthcare institutions more heavily that will hopefully be as accessible as Alta Bates is to our community.”

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