State grants extension for Community Hospital seismic compliance—but reopening date is pushed back

The new operators of Community Hospital Long Beach will have until 2025 to bring the building into seismic compliance after state regulators granted an extension last week.

A memo from the City Manager Pat West to the mayor and City Council stated that because the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development had granted the extension, the city would not have to pursue further legislative fixes to help keep the hospital on track to open.

In April, John Molina of the Molina, Wu Network, which is the hospital’s new operator, announced that the hospital could reopen as soon as July, but that depended on a number of applications and licenses being approved by the state. One of those applications was an extension for seismic compliance.

Molina said that the open date for the hospital has been pushed back from July as originally announced, but that it could still be sometime this year.

“It’s been two steps forward and one step back,” Molina said.

Under the new compliance extension, Community Hospital is listed as a “rebuild” project due to the magnitude of improvements needed with compliance required by January 2025. The previous deadline was January 2020.

State regulators, in a memo to Virg Narbutas, CEO of Community Hospital, laid out a road map of what must happen over the next few years. The new operators must submit a plan for the rebuild no later than July 1, 2020 and must start construction by Jan. 1, 2022.

Community Hospital’s former operator, MemorialCare Health System, announced it would cease operations at the site in 2017 due to seismic issues with the buildings. A presentation made to the City Council by MemorialCare showed an underground fault line impacts a portion of the hospital.

In a deal with the city, MemorialCare suspended its license to operate the hospital while the city worked find a new operator. Molina-Wu was announced as the new operator in  2018, with the city and Molina-Wu working out a public-private partnership in which the two would split the retrofit costs, with the city contributing up to $25 million.

Molina said that under the terms of the seismic compliance extension, the expected costs of bringing the hospital up to code have not changed.

The hospital will include an acute care facility, office building and other ancillary medical services, as well as possible sobering center beds, medical detox beds, recuperative care and psychiatric beds to address community needs.

Editor’s note: John Molina of the Molina, Wu, Network is a founding partner in Pacific6, the parent company of the Long Beach Post.

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