California lawmakers to vote on bill that could prevent closure of Alta Bates medical center

It’s the final week of this year’s legislative session, and East Bay lawmakers are pushing a bill that could stop Sutter Health from shuttering its Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. Senate Bill 687, by local state Sen. Nancy Skinner, would require the attorney general to review and approve the closure of any emergency rooms run by nonprofits. Proponents say the law would preserve Californians’ access to emergency medical services. Skinner authored the bill after Sutter announced it would…

At a mulching party, East Bay residents learn how to convert lawns to gardens

On a warm Saturday morning, people began to slowly stroll into the Memorial Tabernacle Church in Oakland’s Bushrod neighborhood. They were gathered not for a morning service, but for a special kind of lawn party. Trail mix, cookies, apples, and fresh-cut pieces of banana were laid out in colorful bowls on a table, but nothing smelled more fresh than the two 4-foot piles of compost and wood mulch laid out on the road in front of the church. StopWaste, a public…

Portraits of East Bay activists: Alana Banks

It is the first day back since spring break. Alana Banks still has her tan from Barbados. She walks onto UC Berkeley’s campus behind Sproul Hall to the Fannie Lou Hamer Center, a small tin building named after the voting rights activist. If you weren’t familiar with the place, it would be easy to miss, as it is hidden behind the English department and to the far left of the art studio. Banks, who is from Oakland, is one of the co-founders of the center, which opened in February. It is the first space set aside as resource center for black students on UC Berkeley’s campus.

Feminine hygiene products unavailable to many East Bay women

It’s an early Thursday morning and a slow trickle of clients are coming through the doors of A Friendly Manor, a center for homeless women in West Oakland. The sign-up sheet for showers that day is almost full, and the women take their seats around the common room, their belongings stacked next to them and their eyes and bodies heavy from the previous night. The door to the closet, where they can get all kinds of personal toiletries including pads,…

State legislators work on bill to establish single-player healthcare system

As Californians brace for a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the state’s marketplace, Covered California, legislators are working on an alternative healthcare bill that would establish a single-payer healthcare system in the state. The Healthy California Act, or Senate Bill 562, is a measure that proposes a premium tax towards a public fund, which would finance all healthcare services. State residents would pay into this fund, instead of paying a monthly premium to their insurer for a…

State legislators push bill to limit emergency room closures

California has one the nation’s lowest number of hospital emergency rooms per capita, and Bay Area legislators are calling this shortage a crisis, as the number of people who need urgent care services keeps growing. They are pushing for a bill that would require non-profit hospitals to obtain approval from the state Attorney General.

Possible repeal of Obamacare arouses local concern

As Californians, along with the rest of the nation, brace for a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Marshawn Harris, an Oakland-based health care insurance broker, had been trying to sign up as many people as possible. “My goal is to get everyone enrolled and make sure they understand that Covered California [the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act] will be around at least until the end of 2017,” Harris said, referring to the state’s version of the Affordable…

Changing an industry with natural products

Before starting a green business, Elva Aguilar worked as a maid for corporate cleaning companies in the Bay Area. Aguilar worked with the common cleaning agents, but like some cleaning workers she began to notice a decline in her health.