California lawmakers extend fight to keep Alta Bates open in Berkeley

Sutter Health plans to shutter the Alta Bates facility in Berkeley, but a proposed law might prevent its closure. Photo by Alex Matthews.

Sutter Health plans to shutter the Alta Bates facility in Berkeley, but a proposed law might prevent its closure. Photo by Alex Matthews.

At the eleventh hour of this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers passed a bill that may stop Sutter Health from closing its Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley.

The proposed law, Senate Bill 687 by local state Sen. Nancy Skinner, would give the attorney general authority to review and approve any nonprofit hospital looking to close its doors.

After a 42-23 vote by the Assembly this past Friday evening, it’s on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Sutter made the decision to rebuild Alta Bates as an outpatient-only facility, closing its ER rooms, because of a statewide seismic-retrofitting requirement. The announcement drew criticism from local leaders, particularly in Richmond, where the 2015 closure of Doctors Medical Center has made emergency care less accessible.

“The farther you live from an emergency room the more your life is at risk,” state Sen. Nancy Skinner said, adding that her bill ““creates a layer of protection for the well-being of our communities.”

If Brown approves the bill, Alta Bates’ fate will be in the hands of Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who will determine if state law obliges Sutter, as a nonprofit, to keep Alta Bates in service for inpatient and emergency care.

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