Amid new COVID-19 spike, Community Hospital still awaits final state approval

After a rush to get staff, equipment and supplies in the beginning months of the coronavirus pandemic, Community Hospital continues to languish without patients because its operators are waiting for a final inspection and licensing from the state health department.

The hospital was shuttered in July 2018 because of seismic safety issues. In October 2019, the city agreed to lease the land to operators Molina, Wu, Network with a seismic retrofitting plan. It was announced in March that the facility would reopen ahead of schedule to alleviate a possible surge of patients to surrounding hospitals under special orders from the governor’s office.

While that surge never came during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis, there is now a rise of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but its operators are still waiting on that last inspection.

It’s likely that when stay-home orders were showing to be effective in slowing the spread of the virus, the urgency from the state to reopen Community Hospital was lessened, Brandon Dowling, a spokesman for MWN, said.

The license its operators are going for is for an acute care hospital, meaning it’s not intended to be a surge hospital for COVID-19, according to Dowling. The hospital is primarily intended for non-COVID patients to be transferred to in order to alleviate the other hospitals—though Dowling said COVID-19 patients could still end up at Community as cases rise.

The hospital can hold about 158 patients.

“You would think that as you see the trendline surging here, especially in LA County, you would want every hospital available for that,” Dowling said.

There isn’t yet an estimated timeline for when the state will do the final inspection and grant the license, a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health said.

“We continue to work with the provider in planning a potential survey to determine readiness for operations. COVID-19 is not a factor in these processes,” the spokesperson said.

The operator hired about 120 doctors, nurses and other staff back in April, most of whom they’ve kept in contact with as they wait, Dowling said. He noted that the work on the part of the hospital that needs retrofitting is still ongoing in facilities separate from the part of the hospital that is reopening.

Editor’s note: John Molina, a partner in the Molina, Wu Network, is also the principal investor in the parent company that owns the Long Beach Post.

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.
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