Community members from around the East Bay rallied and marched Sunday to save Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. Photo by Ken Epstein.
Community members, elected officials and registered nurses held a rally and march Sunday, led by a brigade of strollers, to protest Sutter Health’s proposed closure of Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, the city’s only acute care medical facility and the birthplace of thousands of East Bay residents.
Scheduled speakers at the rally were Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín; Ethel Long-Scott, executive director of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project [WEAP]; Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, El Cerrito City councilmember; and RN, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Alta Bates, and retired RN Anjali Sundaram, who was delivered by Alta Miner Bates, the nurse who founded the hospital in 1905 to care for women and infants.
The march and rally was held to celebrate the “important role Alta Bates plays in in the East Bay, especially for mothers and newborns and to collectively speak up for its survival,” said Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, an RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Alta Bates.
“Sutter Alta Bates had 5,863 live births last year, ranking number seven out of all the hospitals in California,” said Pardue-Okimoto. “We can’t let Sutter shut down this vital center of maternity and neonatal health care in our region!”
“Sutter’s claim that patients rerouted from a closed Alta Bates to Summit will only experience a 12-minute delay in care is laughable to anyone who lives in the East Bay. Even if it were true, 12 minutes to someone who has experienced a massive heart attack, a GI bleed or a stroke can mean the difference between life and death, even traveling in an advanced life support ambulance,” said Stephanie Crowe Patten, a Cardiac Telemetry Nurse at Summit.
“It means the difference between a UC Berkeley student graduating and becoming a biologist and discovering a cure for cancer or your husband coming home to you rather than dying in route or in the parking lot,” she said.
Last year the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the closure of the Alta Bates hospital and emergency room recognizing that a closure would restrict access to emergency care for thousands of Berkeley residents — as well as students, faculty and staff on the UC Berkeley campus.
Sutter says it will maintain only doctors’ offices and potentially an “urgent care center” in Berkeley. But a broad range of vital patient services cannot be treated at an urgent care center, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, internal bleeding, most burns, life threatening allergic reactions, poisoning, electrical shock, and severe abdominal pain, head and back injuries, and bone breaks, according to a statement released by the California Nurses Association.