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Berkeley orders Sutter Health’s Alta Bates to file details on community benefits

Sacramento Business Journal, 7/19/13

Kathy Robertson
Senior Staff Writer- Sacramento Business Journal

The Berkeley City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to require Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to provide an annual report to the council with specific detail on the charity care and community benefits reported on tax returns and the value of these benefits to Berkeley residents.

The resolution also includes a provision to schedule a council work session on the topic.

The council action follows research on the issues by the Community Health Commission, which raised questions about how the information is reported, the myriad of activities that fall under “community benefit” and how well this offsets the nonprofit health system’s tax-exempt status.

Also central to this debate is the California Nurses Association. The union is in a protracted labor dispute with Sutter Health at a number of hospitals, including Alta Bates Summit. A number of Alta Bates Summit nurses attended the council meeting.

“It’s encouraging to participate in such a strong community response,” Alta Bates registered nurse Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto said in a news release. “The support is clear: Berkeley residents deserve real accountability, which translates into real benefits that impact the daily lives of our patients.”

The council action leaves Sutter on the hook to provide information while other hospitals do not. Legislation that seeks to define charity care and nonprofit hospital commitments is stalled for the year — unless exceptions are made — because it failed to get out of the State Assembly by the deadline.

Charity care is only one component of community benefit, Deborah Pitts, Sutter’s regional manager for community health improvement and community benefit, said in testimony before the council.

In 2012, Sutter East Bay hospitals provided $151.9 million in community benefit, she said. Alta Bates provided $120 million.

 

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