After nearly three years, the Community Hospital Long Beach emergency department opened at noon today, marking a crucial turning point for the facility, operator Molina, Wu, Network announced.

Community, the only hospital in East Long Beach, was shuttered close to three years ago by its former operator over seismic safety concerns, which the new owner must still resolve.

But in January, during the height of hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the hospital won emergency approval to receive transfer patients from other facilities.

State officials on April 29 gave the facility permission to now accept walk-in patients for the first time since being shuttered in summer 2018.

The emergency department reopened with 20 beds, new medical equipment, a revamped facade, a redesigned lobby, new furniture and a new electronic patient tracking system, according to the announcement.

Over the last two years, MWN has invested millions into the facility, including deferred maintenance, equipment replacement, supplies, utility system, and facade and interior room updates. Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw’s office pitched in $250,000 for critical elevator repair.

After months of delays at the state level, the nearly century-old hospital finally gained state approval to receive non-COVID-19 transfer patients, the first of which arrived Jan. 5. Less than three weeks later, the state allowed the hospital to reactivate its behavioral health department.

In addition to its 20 ER beds, Community Hospital is approved to operate 40 medical/surgical beds, 11 intensive-care unit beds and 28 behavioral health beds.

Hilda Manzo takes a selfie with her ER coworkers as staff celebrated the opening of Community Hospital’s emergency department, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The hospital has over 210 staff, according to spokesman Brandon Dowling. Staff dedicated to the ER will fluctuate based on patient volume, he added.

“We, along with countless residents and first responders, are thrilled for this reopening,” Community Hospital operator John Molina said in a statement. “Three years was far too long for East Long Beach to go without these necessary, vital, life-saving services and our team couldn’t be prouder to serve our community once again.”

While patients may be transferred to or check themselves in at the newly reopened department, 911 ambulatory and paramedic services will not begin using the facility until later this month pending approval from Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services, according to MWN.

Last month, after only a few months of operation, the hospital’s acute-care license was up for renewal, a date established with its original license years before MWN took over the facility. The renewal process was completed without the need of additional surveys, Dowling said.

All hospitals must renew their acute-care license annually.

The hospital was closed by its previous owner, MemorialCare Health System, when a fault line was discovered and the necessary retrofit was deemed too costly. While the facility is currently up to code, MWN is working with state regulators to meet more comprehensive seismic standards that take effect Jan. 1, 2025. The city will reimburse MWN up to $25 million for seismic related work over the next 15 years.

Editor’s note: John Molina—of Molina, Wu, Network—is the primary investor in the parent company that owns the Long Beach Post. Read more about the Post’s ownership here.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.