City Hall Scrambles To Quash Public Discussion of Community Hospital Operator's Plan To Close Its ER And Shift Away From Acute Medical Services To Promoting "Mental and Physical Health" With "Behavioral Health And Wellness Services" And Other "Medical and Social Programs"
(Nov. 5, 2021) -- Long Beach City Hall scrambled today to quash public discussion of the Nov. 4 announcement by city's Community Hospital lessee-operator MWN that it plans to close its previously promised ER and shift away from providing acute medical services to what it calls a "wellness hub" promoting "mental and physical health" with "behavioral health and wellness services" and "medical and social programs."
At midafternoon Nov. 5, the office of the City Manager issued a statement indicating:
...Molina, Wu, Network (MWN) has approached the City regarding the transition of the site to a new mental and physical health wellness campus. There is clearly a great need for these services in Long Beach, and Community Hospital would retain its medical uses under this proposal. City staff are engaged with MWN in lease discussions regarding the master lease agreement and will receive direction from the Mayor and City Council in Closed Session regarding this proposal.
Yesterday (May 4), Community Hospital announced on its website :
...the beginning of a transition of the hospital’s acute medical services into the planning and development of the Long Beach Community Wellness Campus -- a comprehensive wellness hub promoting mental and physical health. With the start of this months-long transition, Community Hospital Long Beach will eventually phase-out the emergency department and acute medical services to realign under a new, provider-focused partner model. This will bring to the campus comprehensive behavioral health and wellness services, urgent care, and other medical and social programs that address community needs.
In Oct. 2019, LBREPORT.com reported in detail on the agendizing memo accompanying the Council vote on the Community Hospital lease (coverage here) in which Economic Development Director John Keisler spelled out potential publicly damaging outcomes if the Council entered into the lease.
The MWN lease included provisions letting MWN (or the city) terminate the lease years before its recited 45 year term, giving the LLC the opportunity to purchase the property for uses that may not include an acute care hospital (potentially a non-acute health care use) after LB taxpayers had spent the $1-2 million per year (up to $25 million over 15 years) to enable seismic retrofits.
If the LLC or the City chooses to terminate the lease for any reason, the City would have to reimburse the LLC for the LLC's start-up costs plus the LLC's share of any retrofit costs plus the LLC's cumulative net operating loss. If the City can't pay that multi-million-dollar sum, the City could sell the Community Hospital property to the LLC or another party which may or may not continue to operate it as an acute care hospital.
The lease notes that MWN "expressly makes no representation that it can open or operate an acute care hospital. The State's regulatory agencies may identify issues that are insurmountable during the current or future hospital licensing and/or seismic construction planning process. These issues may be outside the Tenant's control or current understanding of the Subject Property."
We asked Mr. Keisler today for items we believe city staff could -- and still can -- arguably discuss publicly regardless of the forthcoming closed session...including when (a timeline matter) hospital operator MWN advised the City of its plans, who at MWN informed the City of its plans and whom it first informed and if the City voiced objections on learning of the lessee's plans.
We also asked for the status of roughly $1 million annually budgeted Measure A ("blank check" General Fund sums) for seismic upgrades already conducted and if those sums will be repaid to the City by MWN.
We also sought the status of $250,000 in publicly described "elevator repairs" allocated by Council voted action from sums it previously allocated to Councilman Supernaw’s CD 4 with no requirement in the City's contract with MWN to do so. (We believe the City performed the services for MWN for which MWN invoiced the City although no cash changed hands.)
Councilman Daryl Supernaw, the primary advocate for the MWN lease and the $250,000 advanced in public resources to MWN for the "elevator repairs" didn't mention the Community Hospital news until the final item in his Nov. 5 weekly newsletter, and wrote "I cannot comment on any proposal that involves a Council vote." (LBREPORT.com publisher Bill Pearl called Supernaw's statement overbroad and untrue [prior to announcement of the forthcoming closed session.]) Although the forthcoming closed session now gives Supernaw and other Council incumbents some political cover from speaking about the City's position, it arguably doesn't prevent them from answering public and press questions about their own records on the MWN transactions.
Opening (or more precisely reopening) an eastside Emergency Room -- which MWN now plans to close -- was prominently cited by both Councilman Supernaw and Councilwoman Suzie Price in jusifying entry into the MWN lease
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