Photos by Thomas Cordova.

At 5:05 on a moonless Monday morning, an elderly — and by appearance less-than-wealthy man — named Dennis emerged from the emergency room at Community Hospital and, as a young security guard watched helpfully, struggled to get his walker and himself into the back of a Yellow Cab.

The cab driver appeared to know Dennis, as did the nurse who accompanied him to the exit. The trio exchanged pleasantries before the Prius cab glided noiselessly out of the circular drive and into the dark.

And that was the last medical case that Community Hospital’s ER would handle, if not forever, at least until talks involving the City of Long Beach and MemorialCare Health Services, which runs Community, reach a conclusion that would allow a new operator to eventually take over the East Long Beach hospital. (And here is our obligatory statement that the Post’s owner, John Molina, is part of a group formed to potentially run the hospital.)

The closure didn’t take Community by surprise. For weeks now, paramedics have been directed to take emergency cases to other hospitals, leaving the Community ER to handle a largely transient clientele and other drive-in or walk-in patients. For its final hour Monday morning, the waiting room was empty.

The “EMERGENCY” sign over the front doors was already covered like a corpse by a white sheet.

The grounds in front had a disheveled look, as if no one wanted to bother with the place anymore. A discarded blue latex glove added the sole splash of color to a lifeless flower planter by the ER’s west entrance. In fact, only one of the entryway’s four planters contained anything that normally occurs in nature: An intrepid but fading palm.

In the island at the center of the drive, an army of besieged geraniums were bravely fighting a losing war against the onslaught of unattended tall grass and weeds, and above that battleground a pair of canvas banners were faded nearly white and were ripped and torn like Francis Scott Keys’ spangled flag. Nevertheless, they still got their message across, that Community Hospital is a “Great Place to Work.”

The city announced late Friday that MemorialCare was working with city officials to keep its license “in suspense,” which would allow the new operator to reopen the facility quicker than if the license lapsed.

The hospital, however, is scheduled to fully close July 3.

It’s been a great place to be a patient. It’d be good to see it shake off its current depression and blossom again.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.