ER Importance

E Mike Vasilomanolakis MD

In 1980 the population of Long Beach, California was approximately 361,000 and there were nine hospitals. It is now 2018 the population is 485,000 and there are four hospitals and with less beds in two of these four remaining hospitals. The number of paramedic runs in Long Beach has increased 40 percent in just the past five years.

The time it takes to travel from the east side to the west side of Long Beach has increased due to greater traffic and more stoplights. The average wait time in the emergency room has increased for all hospitals. Long Beach Memorial hospital has the 13th longest wait time in the state of California and is about to get longer if Community Hospital of Long Beach closes.

When Community Hospital closed in 2000 for nine months due to changes in operators, a number of people died who could not get to the west side hospitals in time and/or had to wait longer now in the even more crowded emergency rooms for care.

That was in 2000 when the population jumped to 462,000 with increased traffic and transit time.

Waiting longer times in the emergency room will make people not only suffer more, but will make them and their families sicker as they sit in crowded waiting rooms and hallways with other sick people..

With the closure of Community Hospital, the paramedics will need extra time to transport people across town. The distance from Community Hospital to St. Mary’s is 10 minutes and to Long Beach Memorial 15 minutes. Take that extra time, plus the return trip back and you are talking about roughly an extra half-hour that the fire department and paramedics are out of their service area and out of commission. If an emergency occurs in their area during this time you may need to wait 30 minutes longer to get a response. The fire department is very worried and upset about this prospect. Perhaps extra fire stations and crew can be added but this will be at a substantial cost, which will be passed on to everyone. In fact, the value of homes and real estate will be negatively affected on the east side of Long Beach due to lack of accessible emergency medical care.

MemorialCare has announced the closure of Community Hospital of Long Beach to be effective as soon as possible. This is on the basis of earthquake retrofit costs. The deadline set by the state of California is June 30, 2019. MemorialCare wants to close Community in the next several months, one year sooner than they need to. Ever since this was announced the city of Long Beach has approached the state informing them that there is not enough time for the hospital to find a solution and would result in its closure. The state is willing to extend the deadline beyond 2019 if Community Hospital can come up with plans to deal with the seismic issues. We have ideas; however, it does no good if the hospital closes now compared to June 2019.

What would happen if there is a disaster? The east side of Long Beach and eastern part of central Long Beach is in very serious trouble. I am sorry to say this but don’t bother going to a hospital. The west side hospitals will already be saturated well ahead of the time that it takes one to travel across town. For those who say they can go to Los Alamitos note their emergency room is in great demand and very, very busy and the hospital is almost always full. Good luck.

Emergency rooms deal with life and death situations on a daily basis. It is unfortunate that the state in its desire to make all hospitals earthquake safe is willing to close hospitals that do not have the resources to comply. As such, they are in effect taking away an emergency facility in case there is an emergency. Let’s hope you never need to go to an emergency room. But let’s hope there is an emergency room there if you need it.

This past Christmas there were routinely up to 50 people at a time in the emergency room at Community Hospital with many were very sick. Where would they have gone if Community Hospital was closed and how much longer would they have waited in some distant emergency room before even being seen.Do you realize that the issue is not only getting to an emergency room in a timely manner it is also being seen and treated in a timely manner? Waiting to be seen while you are bleeding can cause your organs to shut down. Waiting to get an antibiotic for an infection can convert a treatable infection to one that is too late to treat and fatal. Time and availability are of the essence!

Please help us in convincing the powers to be (the city of Long Beach and especially MemorialCare) to keep the emergency room open at least until June 2019. By then we can find an alternate operator or way to keep the emergency room open. We feel we can do it and all we need is time. However, if the hospital closes prematurely it becomes very difficult to reopen. We need your help. This is for everyone’s benefit.



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