Effort to Save CHLB ER Underway

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

Will Community Hospital Long Beach close its doors?

The fate of the hilltop hospital on Termino Avenue at Pacific Coast Highway remains unknown at this time. But some will do all they can to save the only ER on the city’s east side.

It was Nov. 6 when Community Medical Center Long Beach announced that it informed the City of Long Beach that the earthquake fault underneath the hospital is a larger, active fault than was previously known.

The nonprofit health system MemorialCare, which operates five hospitals including Community Hospital, Long Beach Medical Center, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Medical Center and Saddleback Medical Center, issued a press release at the time.

“This new information is supported by significant due diligence, including consulting with seismic experts, structural engineers and architects,” the press release read.

“It has therefore been determined, and the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) has confirmed that due to the active fault line and California’s legal requirements for acute care hospitals, Community Medical Center cannot meet the seismic compliance regulation effective June 30, 2019,” the release detailed.

Community Medical Center CEO John Bishop provided a statement in November that “We are all saddened that the findings were not more encouraging for the future of Community Medical Center Long Beach.”

He said since the City of Long Beach owns the land and hospital buildings, that hospital officials would work with the city on “transition plans that focus on the needs of the community.”

Bishop added the hospital would continue operating “for a yet-to-be-determined period of time, providing quality and compassionate care.”

A second and third opinion by third-party seismic experts – including one company hired by the City of Long Beach – confirmed the original study’s findings.

The Community Hospital Long Beach Foundation – among others – is trying to keep the hospital alive.

“The CHLB Foundation will be convening a task force of business, community and civic leaders, investing in a survey of local residents to confirm demand for emergency services and funding a real estate study of the CHLB campus to identify possible options to retain life-saving care and services at Community Hospital,” said Matthew Faulkner, executive director for the CHLB Foundation, through email.

“We are also investing in community engagement efforts and a public information campaign to disseminate factual information about the CHLB campus and the potential to retain life-saving services,” he said.

Faulkner added that a fundraiser will be launched.

“We will be asking our community to support these efforts in any way that they can and will be establishing the ‘Save the Eastside ER Campaign’ with one hundred percent of any funds raised dedicated to this effort.”

In addition, a “Night at the Movies II” fundraiser event will take place May 4 to support the cause.

“We are very hopeful that a groundswell of support will ensure that we can come up with a durable solution for our community,” Faulkner said. “The initial goal is to continue operation of the emergency department and critical care services, ICU and Surgery until we can determine a longer term solution.”

 Faulkner did not yet know how much money would be needed.

“We don’t have a target number in mind for the campaign but depending on what the final vison could be for a repurposed CHLB it could run in the several millions,” he said.

Councilman Daryl Supernaw, whose Fourth District includes Community Hospital, said he will do all he can to help save Community, founded in 1924.

“I am doing everything within my power to assemble the resources to keep the hospital open and maintain the only ER on the east side of Long Beach,” he said through email.

“I believe there is a very strong potential that the resources on the Community Hospital campus can be realigned and/or consolidated to meet state requirements for an ER and acute care facility,” he added.

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said through telephone:

“My council colleagues and I representing the east side of Long Beach are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that emergency services continue to exist in the east side of Long Beach.

“The impact of the closure with no replacement emergency care facility would be very significant on the residents of the east side.”

MemorialCare leases Community Hospital’s land and buildings from the City of Long Beach for $1 per year.

“While Memorial Care has notified the city that they are unable to perform the seismic upgrades required by the state to operate Community Hospital beyond June 30, 2019, the City Council has directed city staff to identify partners to make the investments needed to keep the hospital operational,” said John Keisler, the city’s director of economic and property development, through email.

“It is the intent of the City Council to identify a new partnership to keep all basic services required to support an emergency department,” he added.

A diagram of the hospital shows more than half of the medical facility sits in the red zone, or “Pose significant risk of collapse and danger to the public.”

A much smaller area is colored orange, meaning, “Does not significantly jeopardize life, but may not be repairable or functional following strong ground motion.”

The few sections that are yellow “May experience structural damage which does not significantly jeopardize life, but may not be repairable or functional following strong ground motion.”

A larger green chunk “May experience structural damage which may inhibit ability to provide services to the public following strong ground motion.”

And two sections within the green area are colored blue, including a segment of the emergency department, indicating, “Reasonably capable of providing services to the public following strong ground motion.”

The illustration and report can be found in a Jan. 17 city memorandum available online at http://www.longbeach.gov/globalassets/city-manager/media-library/documen...

The Beachcomber emailed MemorialCare spokeswoman Richele Steele and asked if funds were available to renovate Community Hospital to meet state standards.

“It is not an issue of funding. We explored all options, but because the fault is large and active, to continue operations as an acute care hospital, large portions of the hospital would have to be demolished, resulting in a small, 100-year-old facility with no more than 20 acute care beds, which operationally is not feasible to run,” she said.

“The California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) agreed that this is simply not a viable option, and confirmed that it would not be feasible for Community Medical Center Long Beach to achieve compliance with state seismic requirements for acute care hospitals,” she added.

Steele said MemorialCare is aware of the city memo provided to the city council.

“We are pleased with the city’s collaboration and confirmation of the seismic findings that beneath the hospital is an active fault that is larger than originally was known. We will continue to work with the City of Long Beach and other stakeholders to identify the best solution on behalf of our community,” she said.

“We are confident that the city will validate our findings with respect to the facility’s inability to comply with seismic regulations beyond June 30, 2019 and will provide the city with the information needed to appropriately perform their due diligence.”

kirt@beachcomber.news

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