Negative consequences following pending closure of Community Medical Center Long Beach would likely affect people living in East Long Beach and nearby Seal Beach neighborhoods, according to a information presented to a Los Angeles County panel on Wednesday.
The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Commission, an advisory body, assembled Wednesday night to gather facts and opinions related to the looming shutdown of the East Long Beach hospital. Testimony provided to commissioners will be incorporated into a forthcoming assessment of how a shutdown of the hospital, something that may happen due to seismic safety issues, may affect health care services in the surrounding community.
MemorialCare’s leadership has declared they cannot feasibly bring Community Medical Center up to the California’s earthquake safety standards, and announced in November plans to cease acute hospital services at the campus. Blaming the departures of dozens of employees, MemorialCare later revealed plans to close the hospital in early July.
Wednesday’s public comments echoed commentary and statements from hospital leadership and those against MemorialCare’s closure plans over the past several months. The California Nurses Association has accused MemorialCare of accelerating the hospital’s closure, and City Hall officials have insisted that some other organization may be able to keep Community Medical Center and its emergency room open.
On Wednesday, city Economic Development Director John Keisler told commissioners, as he told City Council members earlier this month, that other care providers may be willing to take Community Medical Center over.
“There’s also significant interest from hospital providers,” Keisler said.
Commissioners also heard other testimony from workers at the facility who pleaded with officials to keep the hospital open.
“We just need to be able to do that work,” nurse Jackie McKay said. “If not with MemorialCare, then perhaps with someone that does care.”
On the other hand, hospital Chief Executive John Bishop’s prepared remarks reiterated prior remarks on MemorialCare’s moves to reconfigure Long Beach Medical Center, which the organization also manages, in order to accommodate an increase in emergency room patients.
He also said he was confident that planned emergency room expansions for Long Beach Medical Center, Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center and College Medical Center will result in total emergency room capacity at Long Beach hospitals being greater in 2019 than it is today.
Commissioners also heard differing perspectives as to the potential severity of problems that may follow a closure of Community Medical Center’s emergency room.
Cardiologist Dr. Mike Vasilomanolakis warned that any increase in emergency room wait times creates the risk of medical conditions turning into critical emergencies, for example, if a patient comes in with appendicitis and suffers a burst appendix before his or her turn to see a doctor.
“Our emergency rooms cannot often treat in a timely manner as it is, but this is going to get worse,” he said.
Another speaker who was seeking to alleviate public worries, Long Beach Medical Center Trauma Program Director Desiree Thomas, pointed out that Community Medical Center is not a trauma center. That means paramedics aiding patients suffering critical injuries from the likes of a gunshot wound or car crash do not go to Community Medical Center.
“It’s important to reassure people that these types of patients are not losing access to care,” she said.
On Wednesday, commissioners received a list of preliminary findings on what may happen if the Community Medical Center closes.
Among the preliminary findings:
• Community Medical Center takes in nearly 20 percent of Long Beach Fire Department patient transports, and shutting down the hospital would result in longer travel times to other emergency rooms.
• A loss of 30 hospital beds for local patients in need of critical health services.
• The number of emergency treatment stations within a 10-mile radius of Community Medical Center would decease from 344 beds to 323 beds.
• The loss of the only place where Sexual Assault Response Team members provide services to crime victims within Long Beach city limits.
• The loss of 28 psychiatric care beds, which amount to 14 percent of all such beds within a 10-mile radius.