Future of Long Beach Community Medical Center uncertain

In March 2018, MemorialCare announced that it was closing the 158-bed Community Medical Center Long Beach because the facility would be unable to meet seismic compliance regulations. The hospital sits above an active fault zone.

“This is a difficult announcement,” said John Bishop, CEO of Community Hospital Long Beach in the March announcement. “We exhaustively explored all options to continue operations at Community Medical Center as an acute care hospital. This proved not possible since large portions of the facility would have to be demolished, resulting in a small, 94-year-old hospital with no more than 20 acute care beds, which would not allow for viable acute care operations. We did not take this decision lightly, and we are committed to doing everything we can to ease the transition for affected employees, physicians, and our patients. We are saddened by this, but I want to assure Long Beach residents that Memorial Care continues to be dedicated to providing the health care the city needs.”

MemorialCare requested that the hospital transition from a general acute care and psychiatric care hospital to an expanded acute psychiatric hospital. The request was denied by the City of Long Beach, which owns the land and the facilities.

MemorialCare believes that nearby hospitals are capable of absorbing the acute care hospital patients and emergency department patients currently served by Community Medical Center. From the March announcement:

“Community Medical Center commissioned a study to better understand the need for general acute care hospital services in the Long Beach community. The study found that Community Medical Center’s service area has seven acute care hospitals within a short travel distance, all with large numbers of available patient care beds and excess capacity…

The study also looked at local emergency departments and learned that Community Medical Center’s emergency department (“ER”) visits represent only about 10 percent of total ER visits. Over half the area’s ER visits are considered low acuity and these patients can be seen in other settings such as at more than two dozen urgent care centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers located in Long Beach. Community Medical Center and its emergency department is not a designated trauma center, stroke receiving center or cardiovascular receiving center, and does not provide obstetrical services. All patients needing these services are referred to other hospitals within the City.”

However, the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency found that the closure of Community Medical Center will result in:

  • Longer travel times to reach emergency services
  • Longer out-of-service times for EMS personnel engaged in patient transports to more distant hospitals resulting in possible delays in emergency services
  • Loss of geographic availability of basic emergency department services for residents of east Long Beach, Signal Hill, and northwest Seal Beach
  • Longer wait times for patients experiencing non-life-threatening illness or injury in emergency departments of surrounding hospitals
  • Loss of 30 critical care beds
  • Loss of 28 psychiatric beds
  • Relocation of only Sexual Assault Response Team in Long Beach which currently operates out of Community Medical Center Long Beach

The City of Long Beach has fought to preserve hospital services, including searching for a new hospital operator.

The City is currently in negotiations with Molina, Wu, Network, LLC for the lease and potential development of the Community Medical Center.

“The City is working collaboratively and steadfast with MWN to minimize the gap in service at Community Hospital,” said Kevin Lee, the city’s Public Affairs Officer. “The City’s intent has always been to keep the hospital operating with emergency services including the acceptance of Advanced Life Support (ALS) patients. The City has made great progress, and is looking forward to once again making these services available for the benefit of the community and for the ability of the Long Beach Fire Department to take care of our community more efficiently and effectively.”

Mario Molina, one of the members of Molina, Wu, Network, LLC briefly outlined the vision for the hospital in a LinkedIn post.

Times change. Health care has changed and hospitals need to keep up. Our vision is to create a smaller hospital that meets earthquake standards and maintains essential services. We want to keep the ER open, preserve the sexual assault response team, and maintain psychiatric beds. At the same time, we want to maximize what can be done for outpatient services on the site.

MemorialCare has also agreed to suspend its operating license, which will streamline the transition of the hospital to a new operator. However, MemorialCare will cease operations at the hospital on July 3rd.