New state legislation could require hospitals provide longer notices before closing, removing emergency services

State Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell wants to make it harder for hospitals to close down or eliminate services without providing the public with an ample amount of time to respond. Thursday, he introduced a bill to extend the public notice period from its current marks of 30 days and 90 days to a uniformed 180 days.

The law currently requires a hospital to give a 30-day notice to the public before closing a hospital and a 90-day notice before it does away with emergency services. Assembly Bill 1014 would require that hospitals give a 180-day notice to do either.

O’Donnell, who represents most of Long Beach including the area where recently shuttered Community Hospital stands, referenced the hospital’s closure last year in a statement, Thursday morning.

“There was very little time to engage the hospital provider on an alternative to closure, and patients ultimately paid the price,” O’Donnell said. “There are now longer wait times for services, longer ambulance travel times and overcrowding at other facilities.”

With Fault Line Threatening Future of Community Hospital, Legislators Pledge to Find A Solution

Community Hospital’s previous operators, MemorialCare Medical Group, announced in November 2017 that because of an active fault line that bisects the hospital’s property the hospital was not seismically compliant with state laws governing emergency services and would wind down operations at the site.

The announcement kickstarted a series of actions by the city as it sought to both protect the hospital’s license from lapsing and to find another provider to take over for MemorialCare.

O’Donnell introduced legislation Assembly Bill 2591 in March 2018 in an effort to push back the seismic compliance deadline from June 2019 to 2025. The city announced a new operator had been secured in the MolinaWu network in June 2018.

John Molina, a partner with MolinaWu, is a founding partner of Pacific6, the company that owns the Long Beach Post.

Residents and lawmakers have pushed for the reopening of the hospital as it was the only emergency facility in East Long Beach.

Without Community Hospital, emergency calls have been pushed to other area hospitals such as Long Beach Memorial and Los Alamitos Medical Center which first responders have said extends commute times and creates bottlenecks in emergency rooms.

O’Donnell’s bill awaits referral to a policy committee, but he pledged to introduce other legislation to help the new operators navigate the seismic compliance deadline. The MolinaWu Network and the city have been working their way toward an agreement to reopen the hospital in a series of closed session meetings over the past few weeks and signals have pointed to the possibility of the hospital opening in the coming months.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.