Community Hospital says it’s ready to reopen; with ICUs full, what’s the delay?

In the early days of the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued special orders to reopen Community Hospital Long Beach temporarily as a backstop to the growing threat of COVID-19. But nine months later—as a surge of cases is pushing local hospitals to the brink—the facility remains shuttered with no answers from the state as to why.

This week, Community Hospital’s operator Molina, Wu, Network said they have completed all the state’s requirements to reopen after a recent inspection. It’s just waiting for a final sign-off.

But Community Hospital spokesperson Brandon Dowling told the Post the operator has now been waiting a week and a half for inspectors to come back to the facility to give the last approval. The holidays—and recent rainstorm—might be causing the delay, he said.

State officials would not say whether this was true or what if any issues Community Hospital still has to fix.

In a statement, the California Department of Public Health, which licenses hospitals, said only: “The [department] continues to work with Community Hospital Long Beach and its operators on details related to the facility’s potential licensure.”

Newsom’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Dowling said Community Hospital is ready to open with 20 staffed ICU beds, which would be used to treat non-coronavirus patients. The beds could take some pressure off other local hospitals in Los Angeles County, which—at one point last week—was down to just 30 available ICU beds across the whole region.

In Long Beach, the coronavirus has essentially filled local ICUs, health officials said.

“Currently, our adjusted ICU capacity is 0, and 70% of all beds are being used by patients with COVID-19,” Long Beach Health Director Kelly Colopy said in a statement. “Any additional ICU hospital beds that can serve the community at this time are needed. We know that CPDH is working with Community Hospital and hope to see it reopen soon.”

Long Beach and the state both use a weighted formula to calculate their ICU load, which is intended to keep at least some ICU beds open for non-COVID-19 patients even when they have 0% capacity left.

With 482 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and 358 fatalities as of Monday, Long Beach hospital staff say they’re beginning to be overwhelmed, and morgues are now filling up.

Across all of Southern California, ICUs are essentially maxed out, with facilities relying on surge capacity and exhausted staff, according to state and local health officials.

California is urging hospitals to have crisis plans in place that could include rationing care, and the majority of hospitals have been so full at some point in recent days that they’ve had to send away ambulances.

“Community Hospital needs to be open immediately, and the need is critical,” Mayor Robert Garcia, who wasn’t immediately available for an interview, said in a statement through his staff.

On Dec. 23, Garcia said the hospital could be open as early as the beginning of this week, but that it was in the state’s hands.

State, county and local health officials have attributed the current coronavirus surge to Thanksgiving travel and gatherings, and are now concerned that the worst is yet to come for already-crowded hospitals following Christmas travel.

Editor’s note: John Molina—of Molina, Wu, Network—is the primary investor in the parent company that owns the Long Beach Post. He has no influence in editorial decisions. Read more about the Post’s ownership here.

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Brandon Richardson is a business reporter, covering everything from real estate and healthcare to the airport and port to city hall and the economy. He is a Long Beach native who has been with the Business Journal since graduating from Long Beach City College in spring 2016 with an associate’s degree in journalism. He is an avid record collector and concert goer.
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