UPDATE: MemorialCare CEO says closure still on; seismic retrofit, transition not possible

UPDATE: The city council’s move Tuesday evening to approve entering into negotiations with a new operator for Community Hospital, which is scheduled to close in two weeks, is too little too late, according to the East Long Beach facility’s current CEO.

Immediately after the council’s 8-0 vote (Councilman Al Austin was absent) to select the Molina, Wu, Network, LLC., as the new operator of Community Hospital, the hospital’s chief executive John Bishop told the Post in a phone interview there was no way a transition would be possible.

“It’s just physically not possible, even if everybody dropped everything they were doing and worked nonstop,” said Bishop, who runs two other local hospitals under MemorialCare. “Simply not possible.”

Bishop stood by his letter sent to city leaders Friday detailing MemorialCare’s efforts to find a solution to make the property, which is owned by the city, seismically compliant.

While initial cost estimates to retrofit the hospital stood at $80 million to $100 million, Bishop said it was later determined that doing a seismic separation, or sawing the 100-year-old building in half, would not work.

“It’s never been about money, it was about the inability to have a viable hospital at that size,” Bishop said.

Just an hour or so before the city council took on the issue, city leaders sent their own letter in response to Bishop’s, calling for numerous clarifications. Chief among them was his claim that the California Office of Statewide Health Planning Development (OSHPD) confirmed with MemorialCare that it was impossible for Community Hospital to comply with “applicable seismic requirements for acute care hospitals due to the hospital being located on an active earthquake fault.”

The city’s letter said that in recent meetings, OSHPD confirmed no plans for a seismic retrofit of CHLB were ever submitted to the state agency by MemorialCare. Bishop said no plans were ever submitted to achieve compliance because non was possible.

“We went to them and said the best we think we can do is a 20-bed hospital, and that includes sawing the building in half […] and that won’t result in a viable hospital,” Bishop said. “They agreed and said it’s not feasible.”

Bishop shared with the Post a copy of letter he sent to an OSHPD representative, as seen below.

“We went to them and said the best we think we can do is a 20-bed hospital, and that includes sawing the building in half […] and that won’t result in a viable hospital,” Bishop said. “They agreed and said it’s not feasible.”

At the council meeting, city staff stressed the importance of MemorialCare’s cooperation for a smooth transition, including keeping its hospital license active and an interim management agreement. Bishop said MemorialCare would need more specifics, be financially protected and a clear timeline to cooperate.

While city staff pointed to a 2011 management agreement between MemorialCare and the previous hospital operator as an example of what MemorialCare can do with the Molina, Wu, Network, Bishop said it was “completely different.”

“We had a management agreement that had myself be the temporary CFO and our CEO at the time be a temporary CEO and so it was like having two temporary consultants come to run your hospital,” Bishop said. “They still had their board, everything was still under their license, their provider number, and so we were just like executive temps.”

Ultimately, Bishop said a transition without a disruption in services was “simply not an option,” but that MemorialCare would try to do what it could to partner with the city going forward.

“But the fact of the matter is the hospital is going to close on July 3rd because nothing can be done,” he said.

PREVIOUSLY: UPDATE: Long Beach council enters into negotiations with new operator for Community Hospital; asks MemorialCare to work with city

6/19/18 7:26PM  |  The Long Beach City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to negotiate exclusively with a new medical group to run Community Hospital, with members of the council and public imploring the hospital’s current operator, MemorialCare Health System, to work with the city.

“The ball is in Memorial’s court,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “We need, and have asked MemorialCare, to please work with us so there isn’t a disruption in service.”

The new operator is Molina, Wu, Network, LLC. health group, composed of John and Mario Molina (formerly of Molina Healthcare) and Dr. Jonathan Wu, chair of AHMC Healthcare.

MemorialCare CEO John Bishop has said the system plans to close the East Long Beach facility, which sits on an earthquake fault, by July 3.

If MemorialCare does not keep the facility license active until the new operator takes over, the cost in restarting the process —including purchasing equipment, records systems and other operating needs—could run $10 million to $30 million, John Keisler, director of the city’s Economic Development Department, said.

In addition, the head of the Community Hospital Long Beach Foundation announced Tuesday night that the foundation will contribute $1 million to cover any liability MemorialCare might have in keeping the license active until the new operator comes in.

6/19/18 4:41PM  |  Staff Reports  |  In a letter to the board that governs MemorialCare Health System Tuesday afternoon, Long Beach leaders said statements made by the CEO of Community Hospital in recent days are inaccurate—specifically claims that the hospital cannot stay open.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Councilman Daryl Supernaw and City Manager Pat West appealed directly to the MemorialCare Board of Directors to keep Community Hospital running through June 2019, when the health system originally said it would have to close the facility due to seismic instability.

MemorialCare has since said it must close the East Long Beach facility sooner, by July 3 of this year, due to staff departures.

The letter, made public just a few hours before the City Council was to consider approving exclusive talks with a new operator for Community Hospital, states MemorialCare never actually submitted plans to the state agency that would approve plans to retrofit the facility.

The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development confirmed in an email Tuesday that MemorialCare did not submit plans for the work, expected to cost millions of dollars.

Community CEO John Bishop confirmed that the health system did not submit plans; he told the Long Beach Business Journal that plans were not submitted “because there was no solution. And we actually received from them [OSHPD] written confirmation that no solution was viable.”

Bishop could not immediately be reached for comment. He told the Business Journal Tuesday that the MemorialCare board supports his position to close the facility.

Long Beach leaders are hoping to approve a new operator — a bid from Molina, Wu, Network, LLC. health group, composed of John and Mario Molina (formerly of Molina Healthcare) and Dr. Jonathan Wu, chair of AHMC Healthcare — tonight. (John Molina is a partner in Pacific6, which is the parent company of the Long Beach Post.)

See the full letter below.

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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.
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