Community Hospital could be open for business as soon as July if state regulators sign off on a multitude of applications and licenses, its new operator announced Wednesday.
That optimistic message was shared by John Molina with residents at a community meeting at the Recreation Golf Course clubhouse Wednesday evening as city leaders hoped to shed light on the progress made, as well as the road ahead for the hospital and its new operator, Molina-Wu Network, which is trying to reopen the site as soon as possible.
City officials said a seismic compliance extension has been granted for the new operators of Community Hospital, and the city can now work past the “half-way” point as the two sides continue toward securing a reopening date for the East Long Beach emergency room, which according to John Molina, could be as soon as three months.
Molina is part of the Molina-Wu Network which took over as interim operators of the hospital earlier this year. He is also a founding partner of Pacific6 which owns the Long Beach Post.
Molina said that if everything goes to plan and the hospital opens in July, it will be accepting all patients, including those headed to the emergency room. The hospital narrowly stayed on track with state deadlines as a request for an extension on the seismic retrofit had been formally submitted to the state’s regulator in the past few weeks, something that is critical for the hospital’s prospects of reopening in the future. The previous deadline for bringing Community Hospital into compliance was April 1.
Tuesday night, the City Council approved a $1 million transfer from the Community Hospital Long Beach Foundation to the hospital to help it begin its construction plans as operators work to meet seismic retrofit deadlines set by the state. Last month, the City Council approved an interim lease agreement with Molina-Wu to operate the hospital once it reopens and the two sides are working toward a long-term agreement that could see the city and Molina-Wu split an estimated $50 million in repairs required over the next 15 years to bring the site into compliance with state seismic standards.
The deal was struck as a public-private partnership with the city owning the land and the Molina-Wu Network operating the hospital. Molina said his group will try to negotiate the best possible price and that the $50 million in projected shared cost is not the goal, but an estimate they hope to finish below.
“It’s up to $25 million, the better we can negotiate those contracts, the lower we can make the costs, the less will have to come from the city,” Molina said.
He also said that the hospital will share 20 percent of its profits with the city for the first five years of operation.
Long Beach Economic Development Director John Keisler said that all of these pieces are critical in their own right and now the city and Molina-Wu Network will work to piece them together into a functioning hospital. That will include getting the license out of suspension, something that the hospital’s former operator, MemorialCare, filed for last year and allowed the city to search for a new operator. Keisler added that the future of the hospital also received good news recently that the state’s regulator for acute care seismic compliance had granted its extension.
“They said you’re not going to need any stand-alone legislation, you’re not going to need an act of god…we still may need that, we might need multiple acts of god but not for the permitting,” Keisler said.
The meeting was co-hosted by Long Beach City Council members Daryl Supernaw and Suzie Price, whose districts are closest to the shuttered hospital that closed in July 2018 after its former operator, MemorialCare, said that the site sits on top of an active fault line and it was not in compliance with state seismic standards.
MemorialCare’s announcement that it would not be seeking a renewal of a license to operate the site set off a search by the city to find a new operator which led to the partnership with Molina-Wu Network.
The small crowd that gathered inside the clubhouse Wednesday night asked few questions with most of them focusing on dates and deadlines for the hospital’s reopening. One man took exception with assessments paid by Long Beach taxpayers to support hospitals in the county and asked if the city would seek those funds instead of dipping into the general fund.
When pressed about the city’s share of the financing of the hospital’s retrofit, Supernaw shared a story from his son who is a math teacher in trying to explain how far the city’s $1 million (eventually $2 million after the first five years) annual contribution toward the retrofit costs are going in relation to the over $3 billion budget citywide budget.
“A million seconds is eleven and a half days,” Supernaw said. “Three billion seconds is 95 and a half years. That’s the best analogy I can give you for what we’re doing here.”
The Molina-Wu Network expects to begin hiring for positions within the hospital in the coming months as it works toward shoring up construction plans to retrofit the out-of-compliance areas of the campus. If those plans are approved by the state, construction is expected to be completed between 2022 and 2025.