Alta Bates Summit to lay off 358 in Berkeley, Oakland

Nurses strike against Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in May 2013. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Nurses strike against Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in November 2013. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is planning to lay off 358 employees at its Berkeley and Oakland campuses and shutter its skilled nursing facility and infusion center.

The layoffs, which include 133 positions at the main Berkeley hospital on Ashby Avenue and 33 at its Herrick Hospital campus, will affect part- and full-time positions across the board, said Alta Bates Summit spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp.

The cuts were initially intended to go into effect on Friday, after Alta Bates Summit gave the requisite 60-day notice in November, but the hospitals applied for an extension. “This is a slow process and it’s done very thoughtfully,” Kemp said.

Alta Bates Summit said the layoffs and service center closures are pieces of a multi-year effort to “restore Alta Bates Summit to financial health.” While the average daily patient count dropped 18.3% between 2010-2013, the labor hours fell a disproportionate 5.7%, according to the hospital.

A spokeswoman for the California Nurses Association said the layoffs will increase pressure on an already strained workforce.

“The staffing is so categorically inadequate that the thought of having positions cut and having other nurses work less hours is totally unacceptable to the community,” said CNA’s Joanne Jung.

Alta Bates Hospital on Ashby Avenue, where 133 people will soon lose their jobs

Alta Bates Hospital on Ashby Avenue, where 133 people will soon lose their jobs. Photo: Summit Medical Center

Jung said nurses already have to work extra shifts to meet demand. “It’s all about doing more with less,” she said. “And we’ll fight this because it’s very bad for patient care.” Nurses at Alta Bates Summit in Berkeley and other Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area went on several strikes between 2011 and 2013 to protest contract demands.

Kemp said Alta Bates Summit, which had 4,471 employees at the most recent count last month, complies with staffing mandates.

“There are really specific guidelines and laws on rations per unit, and we make or exceed those,” she said.

Patients seeking services previously provided by the skilled nursing facility and infusion center will be directed to alternate local programs.

Nurses at Alta Bates, other Bay Area hospitals, on strike (11.20.13)
Council seeks more information on Alta Bates’ charity care (08.09.13)
UC, Sutter nurses on strike over contracts, patient care (05.22.13)
Nurses strike at Alta Bates, 10 other hospitals (06.13.12)
Nurses’ strike draws cheers and honking horns (09.22.11)

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  • guest

    Whether you are insured or uninsured doesn’t matter when there are no medical staff at your local hospital to treat you when you are sick. Sutter cares about profits, not people or the community.

  • Adrian Reynolds

    Thank goodness I was born at Alta Bates in ’72 and the hospital was, if I recall clearly to that day, fully staffed.

  • fran haselsteiner

    According to the Contra Costa Times, the infusion center to be closed is at Summit.

  • Just Wondering

    Does signal their lack of confidence in ACA? Shouldn’t they expect demand for their services to grow as more (already ill but without insurance) people get affordable (mandatory) health insurance?

  • guest

    As I understand it, an infusion center primarily provides cancer fighting drugs therapies that are delivered intravenously. Where will the infusion patients have to go to get those services? It seems like the Berkeley area has fewer and fewer hospitals, and could be overextended during an emergency.

  • Jose Heinert

    I hope you have looked at your provider network under your health plan before you need to seek urgent care. I carry a card in my wallet attached to my health insurance card which indicates where I wish to be taken, if I am unconscious. Of course, if its an emergency the ambulance will likely take me to the nearest hospital with an ER.

  • sue tomasello

    The article does not say if positions are nurses, only employees. Do you know what the breakdown of layoffs is, is it all nurses, or aides or what?

  • maddmom

    HEre’s the skinny….Infusion center and Skilled Nursing Facility are to close, therefore the need to ‘reconfigure’ jobs for those nurses. THe real deal is that management is using this as an opportunity to eliminate the 3 day/ week jobs it granted in previous bargaining. They are planning to force all nurses in Women and Infants (Labor and Delivery; Postpartum, Newborn INtensive Care Unit, and Antenatal Testing) to rebid for their jobs). These units are NOT closing, or facing overstaffing issues. IN FACT, this department is a revenue generator for the hospital and actually has staffing shortages: for instance: L&D has at least 20 travel nurse positions AND was in the process of training program to labor and delivery.
    To Sue T…..currently, this is affecting RN positions only (nurses JUST ratified a contract that was two years pending!!!!) — now that seems to be a dirty management trick. There is rumor that the housekeeping and other ancillary staff just received word that they will be facing the same restructuring after the nurses. If you look at ALta Bates Summit Management model: Postpartum, for instance has not one, but TWO managers AND TWO newly hired ASSISTANT managers. Hmmm…..when a facility is looking at restructuring as a cost-saving measure and then hires ASSISTANT managers, one must wonder. Top heavy on the management model: a soul-less job there, for certain. Very top down organization. Managers who actually have vision and good ideas are not sought out. You must be one who carries down orders from the top. What regime does that sound like. Oh….did I get carried away?????
    But in all seriousness….this does not appear to be about saving $. More like union-busting. Divide and conquer mentality….

  • sue tomasello

    Do you work for Sutter? Are you an RN? Seemingly you have inside info.

  • maddmom

    Many RNs work 12 hour shifts. This was the impetus to eliminate those positions and force people into different shift/hours.
    Inside info? I wish! But, yes, I am a nurse

  • maddmom

    It is very disheartening to hear about layoffs and cost-saving measures when the man at the top makes a bundle….read on about him and sutter…

  • nat

    recently was with a friend at alta bates….the care was underwhelming. I do not blame the nursing staff. there are not enough nurses to provide adequate care. my friend had to wait for pain medication for over an hour! i was in her room for hours, rarely did a nurse come in to check on her unless the call light was pushed and then it took way to long! this is not good care. people should be protesting! have your posse with you if ever admitted!

  • sue tomasello

    Years ago I worked at Herrick before it was overtaken by the big greedy Alta Bates. That’s the way it felt back then, in the early-mid 80’s. I was in the clerical end of it but close to many RN’s etc. The merge was ugly. It was obvious that AB lusted after the lucrative Herrick ER and they would not be satisfied until they were the dominant hospital. I was laid-off after 11 years and took my severance package and ran. That was when insurance companies shifted to HMO’s also. Obviously things went from greedy to greedier. Sad.

  • maddmom

    when a family member was hospitalized at alta bates, that was our experience, as well. these units have many lvns and nursing assistants who ‘check in’ on the patient, but then have to report to the RN to administer the meds. on better units, they are staffed with all RNs. rather than cut costs (obviously lower salaries to lvn/assistant staff), units staffed with only RNs provide better care.
    unfortunately, this is the nature of health care today: you MUST advocate for yourself, and bring your posse of ‘medical’ friends so they can help you navigate that minefield.
    nat is right, no the nursing staff to blame, but the management model of care.

  • anon

    Here ar my recent experiences at Alta Bates: My husband was admitted; there was green bile on the floor next to his bed when we checked in. I took a friend with an obviously broken wrist to Emergency. She waited 3 hours, while many less sick people were treated, evidently because there was no technician to do the Xray or some other skilled task. What a change from the Alta Bates where my children were born! It appears to me that either they are short staffed, management is incompetent, or both.

  • Guest

    Yes- ALWAYS have someone with you while you are in the hospital.

  • guest

    When my first child was born at Alta Bates, one registered nurse sat with us through the whole labor, constantly personally monitoring progress. The reassuring and experienced presence was wonderful. When my second child was born 5 years later at Alta Bates, things had changed for the worse. Monitoring was uneven, and there was confusion about the fetal monitor that almost led to a c-section. No one told me I should bring a plunger for the toilet in our recovery room, but I needed one!

  • Berkeley Citizen

    Alta Bates in Berkeley was once a fine hospital. Now, it is dangerous for your health.
    Make sure your loved ones don’t end up at this terrible place, where the innocent die.
    Sutter Health is a greedy corporation.

  • me

    uh, it does make it so if the nurses are on the floor and they are understaffed day in and day out. I understand the goal is more outpatient, but that has not happened yet and there is an extreme strain on staff. This is all about profit, if not, why are the CEOs of these hospitals pulling in millions a year.

  • Stephen M

    Any info. on Sutter / Alta Bates’ selling / giving the
    Herrick facility on Dwight Way to UC? A nurse who works there has heard
    this and we’d love to hear some details, thank you.

  • Andy

    I am a ICU practitioner, I have worked at many hospitals throughout the US and Canada and one conclusion I have made is that both systems work good but the American system (ie Sutter, Dignity etc..) cares to much about profits and less and less about the communities they serve. The only way this will change is to remove the PROFIT and make it single payer which studies show there is less infant mortality, increased life expectancy, increased cancer survival rates and less spent per person per health care dollar etc with a much better outcome. Take the profit and money out of healthcare and simply provide a great service to the public.

  • cindy

    It is not just the nurses being laid off it is affecting other departments as well.

  • cindy

    My husband recently had surgery at Summit and had a great experience. He said the staff was great!

  • anon

    And might I add that in addition to Sutter closing important units and laying off staff across all departments, working conditions are deplorable! Patients are backed up in the ER, nurses are working multiple doubles with no breaks, and they are still getting lay-off threats daily. I hope the community understands, that even if they are paying top dollars for their PPOs/HMOs, that does not ensure premium care when they fall ill!

  • workers husband

    How is a hospital supposed to pay its workers if they don’t make a profit .Are they supposed to do it for free ,or should the government pay for all your care .