BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Pushing baby strollers, demonstrators gathered Sunday outside of Berkeley’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to protest the proposed future closure of the facility which needs a costly seismic upgrade.
Summit officials said the hospital — which provides Berkeley with emergency care and has the city’s only birthing center — will be closed by the year 2030. It’s medical services will be moved to the Summit Campus in Oakland.
Officials said they are being forced to close the hospital because by 2023 the state will require the building to be seismically retrofitted.
“Sunday in a written statement Summit officials said: “Hospital planning takes decades and thus we have no choice but to plan a future, seismically-compliant facility that continues providing safe care for the East Bay community.”
But nurses, activists and local elected officials say Sutter is making a choice not to retrofit the Berkeley hospital for business reasons.
“It feels like they’re saying they don’t want to serve this community anymore, ‘cause it’s financially feasible for them to ask the people here to go to the Oakland location,” said Assemblyman Tony Thurmond/15th Assembly District, Berkeley. ” We’re saying that’s unacceptable.”
Protesters say even though the new location at Summit is only 3 miles farther away, that could have life threatening consequences in an emergency.
“It’s how far and how long it takes to get to a place when you need care,” said Berkeley resident Laurie Olsen. “It’s how close it is for that on-going engagement when you’re child is in an emergency situation and in intensive care.”
Berkeley’s mayor says Sutter may have a RIGHT to relocate the hospital but he’s hoping public outcry will convince the company to change its plans.
“This is their emergency room…so what are we gonna do as a community?” said Nayor Jesse Arreguin. “We need to be prepared…we need to make sure that we do not let Berkeley become a hospital desert.”
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