Councilman Supernaw Used $250,000 In LB Taxpayer Funds (Unspent To Run His Office) To Repair Community Hospital Elevators To Expedite Use As COVID-19 Patient Transfer Facility By Lessee/Operator MWN; We Cited 2019 City Lease Re Repair Costs In Asking Councilman Supernaw About This; He Provides This Detailed Response
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|Publisher's preface: LBREPORT.com believes that in emergency conditions, some actions taken in good faith to enable a worthy goal may warrant subsequent review and possible adjustment after the emergency is over. In that context, LBREPORT.com reports the following in the public interest.
(March 30, 2020, 12:30 a.m.) -- Fourth district Councilman Daryl Supernaw says he used $250,000 in Long Beach taxpayer funds, allocated but unspent to operate his Council office, to pay for repairing elevators in the currently-shuttered Community Hospital building, to expedite its use as a COVID-19 patient transfer facility without any condition for its reimbursement to taxpayers by the MWN LLC to which the City leased the building in 2019 subject to certain terms detailed below.
"Our office was presented with the opportunity to expedite the early reopening of the hospital for a COVID-19 response, and I did not hesitate in issuing my approval," Councilman Supernaw said in a detailed response to an inquiry by LBREPORT.com which we publish in full below.
In his statement, Councilman Supernaw notes that [as part of the City's 2019 lease with MWN, the City has agreed to split up to $25 million [over 15 years] for the cost for a seismic retrofit and "as such, there will be a "true-up" process at the end of the year if expenditures on the elevators are considered eligible for City credit against the seismic commitment. At the moment, we cannot say with certainty if this will be deemed eligible for that credit, but it will be considered as part of the negotiation."
Councilman Supernaw said,"My staff and I have worked very hard to build our office operating budget surplus, and it is very gratifying to see the funds go to such a worthy cause."
On March 18, 2020, state Senators Lena Gonzalez (D, LB-southeast LA County) and Tom Umberg (SE LB-west OC) and Assemblyman O'Donnell (LB) wrote Governor Newsom and CA's Dept. of Public Health Director, telling them that Long Beach Community Hospital "is ready to immediately open the hospital to provide urgent care and serve those who need to be isolated and quarantined."
Their letter stated that "in order to reopen the facility and ensure there is enough capital to pay employees and provide critical services, we strongly urge emergency state funding authorized by SB 89" to be allocated to Community Hospital. SB 89, enacted by the state legislature, provides up to $1 billion that Governor Newsom's administration can allocate for COVID-19 uses.
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The next day, MWN Community Hospital LLC, the for-profit entity to which the City gave a 2019 lease to reopen a smaller (20-30 bed) version of the former non-profit Community Hospital, stated in a March 19, 2020 release that Community Hospital would reopen "for the specific purpose of accepting [COVID-19] transfer patients beginning this Saturday March 21." It said the hospital would operate as a 158 bed COVID-19 transfer facility, including 10 intensive care beds and 10 ventilators and quoted John Molina as thanking the Governor, state officials and the City of Long Beach for "decisive efforts in the swift reopening of Community Hospital."
Two days later on March 21, Governor Newsom's office issued a release stating that he'd directed more than $42 million in emergency funding to expand California’s health care infrastructure and secure equipment and services to support California’s response to COVID-19. In pertinent part it indicated that of that amount, $30 million will let the state lease Seton Medical Center in Daly City and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles for a three-month basis, stating the action "builds on California's previous work, in partnership with local officials, to reopen Community Hospital in Long Beach for the specific purpose of accepting patients transferred from other hospitals in the area." The Governor's release indicated Community Hospital would begin accepting transfer patients on Saturday Mar. 21 with a capacity of 158 beds.
But Long Beach Community Hospital didn't open as a COVID19 transfer facility on March 21, In a March 21 emailed statement, MWN (Pacific6) spokesman Brandon Dowling told LBREPORT.com:
[Mar. 21 statement] Right now, we are working around the clock to finalize the arrival of patients from local hospitals and to ensure that we have the necessary staffing, equipment and medical supplies to guarantee their safety and care. We did not be accept patients today, however we expect to start accepting transfer patients in the coming days. We're working with the State, specifically CDPH, on the necessary licensures for the hospital and will keep you updated with any developments. This is a quickly moving situation so things are changing rapidly. More to come next week.
A week later, when Community Hospital still hadn't reopened, Dowling emailed LBREORT,com (March 28):
[Mar. 28 statement] We've been working with the City and the State to ensure Community Hospital is ready to accept patients. That includes repairs of the facility (elevator and HVAC systems, for example), ensuring proper staffing levels, and acquiring the necessary stocks of supplies and equipment, which has been a challenge in this critical time. We're optimistic that these pieces will come together within this next week.
On Friday March 27, Councilman Supernaw stated in his weekly emailed newsletter:
Last Saturday's plan to begin accepting transfer patients from area hospitals ran into some glitches. The good news is that the issues are being resolved, and CHLB should be back on track in a matter of days. One of the issues involved upgrading of the elevators in order to pass inspection. Our council office was able to step up and provide the required funding of $250,000 to get the upgrade done immediately. This amount, along with our initial funding of the $150,000 architectural study, brings CD4's total contribution amount to $400,000. It's important to note that this money does not come from "one-time district priority funds", so there is no impact on CD4 infrastructure projects including street and sidewalk repair. All the funding for CHLB is a budget surplus from running our council office at a very efficient level. In FY 2019, our office operations came in $245,494 under budget. That amount, along with office operating budget savings from previous years, has been used to help reopen Community Hospital.
On March 29, LBREPORT.com asked Councilman Supernaw about this. In our inquiry we quoted a portion of the City's 2019 lease with MWN Community Hospital LLC, which states in pertinent part ["Tenant" = MWN; "Landlord" = City of Long Beach]:
"Tenant acknowledges that it has not received and Landlord has not made any warranty, express or implied, or representation as to the condition of the Premises. Landlord shall have no responsibility to bring the Premises into compliance with any laws, rules or regulations (including but not limited to any building or occupancy codes, or certification or accreditation requirements) or to bring the Premises into "move in" condition. Landlord shall have no liability to Tenant and Tenant shall have and make no claim against Landlord for any damage, injury, loss of use or loss of business caused by the condition of the Premises. [Lease, Section 1, paragraph A, pp. 1-2]
LBREPORT.com asked Councilman Supernaw if he or the City "have some agreement or understanding with MWN providing for reimbursement for LB taxpayers of that $250,000 sum, and whether or not there was such an agreement or understanding at the time, if you believe MWN should reimburse LB taxpayers for that sum?
[Councilman Supernaw March 29 email response] As stated in our weekly newsletter last Friday, I allocated $250,000 for repair of the Community Hospital elevators. It is an important distinction to note that these funds came from our CD4 office operating budget surplus. We did not use funds earmarked for items such as infrastructure repair, tree trimming or neighborhood services.
LBREPORT.com is interested in the views of our readers on this. After the emegerncy passes, do you believe your Councilmember (let us know who he or she is) should direct city management to seek reimbursement of the $250,000 sum for taxpayers? Let us know via email to mail@LBReport.com or via our Faacebook platform or via our Disqus comment system below.
An initial version of this story was published on our Facebook page at 12:30 a.m. March 30, linked on our front page at 5:55 a.m. lightly edited for clarity by adding a portion of text near the top of the story reiterated from text taken from the near the end of the lengthy story.
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