Berkeley Health Center’s Abrupt Closure Abandons Patient Records

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Berkeley Health Center (photo: Sam Levin)

Patients at the Berkeley Health Center for Women and Men who became alarmed when it abruptly closed its doors last month will probably receive small comfort from knowledge that their confidential medical records have not been lost.

They were apparently still stacked on shelves and sitting in boxes on the floor when investigators from the California Department of Justice searched the building last week, according to Sam Levin at the East Bay Express. The clinic closed seven months after its parent, the Bay Area Consortium for Quality Health Care, filed for bankruptcy amid allegations of mismanaged public funds.

The clinic specialized in treating low-income patients for HIV/AIDS.

After years of problems, the bankruptcy judge ordered that the 40-year-old clinic’s lease be terminated and the property vacated. Levin, who wrote a series of articles chronicling the Consortium’s problems, said it was more than $800,000 in debt. Maybe much more.

Levin said a review of bankruptcy papers indicated that family members of longtime Executive Director Gwen Rowe-Lee Sykes were major creditors and were owed tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.

Despite the Consortium’s problems, the closure caught many by surprise. “It does not appear that a plan exists to ensure the health of patients and reduce patient harm,” Berkeley Health Center's Medical Director Dr. Deborah Wafer wrote the court on January 9, according to the Express.

As a result, patients might go “untreated for conditions that lead to medication failures, stroke, heart attack, diabetic coma, malnutrition, increased HIV and Hep C infection and contamination, increased and unnecessary emergency room and hospital admissions and/or death,” she wrote.

The Consortium’s problems were highlighted in 2009 when Alameda County curtailed an $800,000 annual contract to provide care to ailing indigents. Its revenues plummeted from $2.4 million to $537,000 in fiscal year 2013-14, including the loss of federal funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 2012.

Sykes had argued to the court last year that closing the clinic would cause an immediate crisis for its patients, but apparently did little to prepare for the closure.   

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Department of Justice Investigates Berkeley Health Center, Searches Clinic for Financial Records (by Sam Levin, East Bay Express)

Berkeley Health Center Closes, Leaves Confidential Medical Records Behind (by Sam Levin, East Bay Express)

The Collapse of Berkeley Health Center (by Sam Levin, East Bay Express)

California Department of Justice Investigates Berkeley Health Center, and Look What Center Left Behind (Office of Inadequate Security)

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