community emergency room

The Emergency Department at Community Hospital of Long Beach has become a rallying point for East Side residents.

Two meetings have been scheduled for next week to hear where a bid to reopen Community Hospital is at in terms of negotiations, but it appears talks have stalled.

Molina, Wu, Network, LLC, a group formed specifically to take over the Community Hospital lease, won the exclusive right to negotiate with the city in June. A report about those negotiations had been due to the City Council next week.

John Keisler, director of the city's Economic Development Department, has been the city's primary negotiator. He said last month, after a closed session with the City Council, that he would return on Dec. 18 for another closed-doors briefing and potentially a public report as well.

But Tuesday, Keisler said there is no plan to go to the public in December.

"Both groups continue to participate in weekly conference calls concerning a potential real estate agreement," Keisler wrote in an email. "Although significant progress has been made, there is no current plan to bring an agreement to the City Council in December; and both groups continue to work on the process of relicensing /reopening the hospital in 2019."

Keisler said there likely would be a closed door update, but only because Tuesday is the last council meeting of the year, not because there is something significant to report.

MemorialCare closed the east Long Beach hospital on July 3, citing overwhelming cost to retrofit buildings in light of an active earthquake fault directly below the campus at Pacific Coast Highway and Termino Avenue. The city owns the property, and officials quickly put out a request for proposals to reopen the hospital.

Potential operators were winnowed down to Molina, Wu and Network (MWN), and the City Council gave that group a 180-day exclusive right to negotiate. The first 180 days of that timeframe is nearly over, but the council also authorized two 90-day extensions if necessary.

The Molinas of MWN are Mario and John Molina, formerly of Molina Healthcare. They were forced out of the family business, but Mario Molina has since rebounded with a smaller medical group focusing on clinics. John Molina, who was CFO of Molina Healthcare, has formed Pacific6 Enterprises, an investment firm that has purchased the Breakers Hotel downtown among other properties. The Wu is Dr. Johathan Wu, whose AHMC group operates seven hospitals with 12,000 beds in Southern California, and Network is the Network Medical Management firm that handles medical contracts.

John Molina has been the spokesperson for MWN, and said earlier this year the initial plan was to open a small acute care hospital in the "legacy" buildings at Community to support an emergency department. The need for that department has been the major talking point for the Long Beach Community Hospital Foundation, which has taken the lead in lobbying efforts to reopen.

Councilman Daryl Supernaw, whose Fourth District includes the hospital, has set up a community meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, for a "reopening update and stakeholder input" meeting. He said this week that meeting still is scheduled, and will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Long Beach Yacht Club.

MNW has hired Virg Narbutas as CEO at Community and he reportedly is on site working to prepare for a hospital reopening. After his hiring, Narbutas said his goal was reopening part of the hospital by Jan. 1.

That goal would seem to be undoable now.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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