Community Hospital in Long Beach was supposed to open to transfer patients Saturday, March 21. But that didn’t happen.
A sign in the facility’s parking lot notified those who might seek medical care, “Hospital is closed. For medical emergency, call 911.”
Representatives for Molina, Wu, Network, the firm that’s been working for nearly two years to reopen the facility, were not available for an interview about the change of plans.
“We are working around the clock to finalize the arrival of patients from local hospitals and to ensure that we have the necessary staffing, equipment and medical supplies to guarantee their safety and care,” a spokesman for the company, Brandon Dowling, said in a statement. “We will not be accepting patients today, however we expect to start accepting transfer patients in the coming days.”
Community Hospital’s operators announced Thursday, March 19, the plans to begin accepting transfer patients over the weekend in an attempt to help alleviate the burden on other local hospitals that is anticipated due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We are in a public health crisis,” John Molina, a partner at MWN, said at the time, “and need every resource available to ensure that our community has access to these critical, life-saving services.”
Whenever the facility does open to transfer patients, it will add 158 hospital beds to the region, including 10 intensive care beds and 10 ventilators.
But for now, the status quo remains.
It’s not the first self-imposed deadline the hospital’s operators have missed.
First, Community Hospital was slated to reopen by Jan. 1, 2019. Then, the springtime of 2019 was the goal. When it became clear that wouldn’t happen, representatives said it would happen in July 2019. Since then, operators have been reluctant to pin a date to the eventual ribbon-cutting. The latest estimate is that the hospital could be fully operational at some point this year.
While the process of reopening has been slower than hoped, MWN has made tangible progress.
The facility’s clinical laboratory has been licensed by the California Department of Public Health, officials announced earlier this month; the hospital still awaits a license to be able to run a pharmacy.
The hospital, on Termino Avenue at Pacific Coast Highway, closed its doors in the summer of 2018, after its former operator, MemorialCare, determined a state-required seismic retrofit would be too costly for the facility 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 had the only emergency room serving East Long Beach. It found that operator in the newly formed MWN, and the two sides negotiated a lease agreement that the City Council approved in October.
The hospital’s required seismic retrofit has not yet been completed; MWN has hired the Dallas-based HKS Architects to develop plans for the project.
Long Beach and MWN are splitting the cost of the retrofit, although the costs the city will incur are capped at $25 million. The Community Hospital Long Beach Foundation has agreed to provide a $1 million grant toward the effort, and as part of that grant, the nonprofit handed a check of more than $260,000 to HKS Architects late last month.