Efforts Continue to Save Community Hospital

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

City officials and others are doing all they can to keep Community Hospital Long Beach open for service.

City staff gave council members positive information during a special study session before the regularly scheduled Long Beach City Council meeting April 3.

As many recall, the hilltop hospital on Termino Avenue near Pacific Coast Highway – the only hospital in Long Beach’s east side – is slated for closure because of being on a fault line and not meeting the state’s new seismic standards.

The hospital operator, Memorial Care, has decided to step away from the medical facility. A Memorial Care spokesperson detailed previously that “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, 94-year-old facility with no more than 20 acute care beds, which operationally is not feasible to run.”

She added, “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.”

Even though Memorial Care is abandoning Community Hospital – which it renamed Community Medical Center Long Beach – the city is looking at ways to keep it going.

The City of Long Beach owns the hospital land and buildings and has leased the property to nonprofit Memorial Care for one dollar per year.

“The city remains committed to preserving hospital services at Community Hospital,” Diana Tang, Long Beach manager of government affairs,told council members.

She said the city will try to find another hospital operator in the next month or so to take over running Community Hospital.

Before exiting, Memorial Care would renew the hospital’s license with the state for all 158 beds.

“We are focused on working with Memorial Care to renew their hospital license,” she said, as only the hospital can renew with the state.

And the city is working with Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell to try and buy more time before a 2019 and 2020 deadline kick in.

“We are focused on working with Assemblymember O’Donnell on state legislation that, if approved, would extend the OSHPA compliance deadline,” Tang said.

And the city has retained hospital architecture firm Perkins+Will to look at somehow saving Community through seismic upgrades and possibly re-configuring the layout of the hospital to meet state seismic standards.

The firm helped a Tarzana hospital with a situation similar to Community Hospital’s in terms of age. But unlike Community, the Tarzana hospital does not sit on an earthquake fault.

“We are meeting with Perkins+Will, the same hospital architecture firm that is doing the Tarzana hospital for which seismic compliance was extended last year,” Tang told the council.

John Keisler, Long Beach director of economic development, worked with Tang in addressing the council.

He later said through email that Memorial Care gave July 3rd as the date it would terminate the lease with the city, per a 120-day notice.

Regarding O’Donnell and the legislation, Keisler said, “The state legislation will provide Community Hospital a five year extension to meet OSHPD requirements.”

Explaining the seismic compliance deadlines, Keisler wrote, “The initial deadline for statewide compliance is Jan. 1, 2020. However, Memorial has reported that OSHPD established June 30, 2019 as their deadline to show progress toward compliance at Community Hospital in order to meet the statewide deadline.”

Regarding possible new management, Keisler added, “Our health care management consultant is currently meeting with potential operators and has received interest from potential operators to take-over operation of the hospital after Memorial Care departs.”

Meanwhile, all the council members are supportive of Community Hospital.

Councilman Daryl Supernaw, whose Fourth District includes Community, 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.”

The community-activist-turned-councilman launched a “Save the East Side ER” campaign in January complete with navy blue buttons. He provides weekly hospital updates in his emailed newsletters, which residents can sign up to receive by contacting his office.

The Community Hospital of Long Beach Foundation started its own “Save the ER” campaign, which includes public education and fundraising. Money raised will go towards the cause of saving the ER. And yard signs are available.

“The unofficial campaign effort has raised money in the tens and 20s of thousands,” said Matthew Faulkner, executive director for the CHLB Foundation.

“People have been supportive and we are thankful for that,” he said.

More information about the CHLB Foundation’s campaign can be found at www.savetheer.com.

Meanwhile, Community Medical Center CEO John Bishop said through email, “We will continue operating the facility until its closure, providing the quality and compassionate care that have been our hallmark for many years.”

Bishop’s full response to the Beachcomber can be found in the paper’s online letters section.

kirt@beachcomber.news

 

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