Community Hospital is one step closer to reopening, after the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve a short-term lease deal with the hospital’s operator Tuesday.
A long-term deal is expected to come back to the council for approval in April or May. John Molina, co-founder of the operator Molina, Wu, Network, said during Tuesday’s meeting that with this agreement in place, he expects the hospital could open its doors in July or August.
The interim lease (for $1) could last up to a year, with MWN responsible for costs associated to the property, while state approvals are pursued. If those approvals don't happen or the long-term lease isn't signed for other reasons, the city would reimburse MWN up to $1 million of its costs.
Some of the provisions of the long-term deal, if and when it is approved, are:
• Community Hospital’s operation will be a public-private partnership between Long Beach and MWN;
• The lease lasts 45 years, with the option of two 10-year extensions, at a lease rate of $1 a year;
• The two sides will share funding responsibility of Community Hospital’s seismic retrofit costs for up to $50 million, meaning Long Beach will pay for up to $25 million, and MWN will be responsible for any additional costs of the retrofitting;
• The property will be used for the operation and maintenance of an acute care facility, professional office building, and other ancillary medical uses;
• MWN will make a good faith effort to provide sobering center beds, medical detox beds, recuperative care, and psychiatric beds to address community needs identified in Long Beach’s Everyone Home task force report, subject to appropriate licensure and regulatory approvals.
Molina also said his company is committed to giving former Community Hospital employees first priority when hiring begins, which he anticipates will be in May. He said at the beginning, MWN will likely be looking to hire about 200 employees, but the plan is to eventually hire about 400.
The hospital closed its doors last summer, after its former operator MemorialCare determined a required seismic retrofit would be too costly for the hospital to remain financially viable.
Long Beach owns the property, so leaders quickly sought to find a new operator that would commit to reopening the hospital, which was the only emergency room serving East Long Beach. It found that operator in the newly formed MWN, and the two sides have been in lease negotiations ever since.
Although city leaders thanked city staff, nurses, doctors, residents and MWN itself on Tuesday, they also emphasized that the work is not done.
“While we should celebrate where we are and celebrate this interim agreement and this framework, the real celebration will hopefully happen once the state process is concluded,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “So I think we should not in any way let up, and right now, essentially this council is ready to move the ball forward, and we are very close to the end here, but really, the ball is now in the state of California’s court.”
The next step will include submitting a seismic rebuild plan and a new hospital license application to the state, and Long Beach and MWN hope to secure the new license next month.
The exact reopening date of the hospital will depend on the state’s approval, Molina said.
“Believe me, we would like to have that date sooner, rather than later,” Molina said, “but we’re not going to open until we’re ready.”