Community Hospital Emergency Department Stops Taking Critical Patients

Community Hospital Emergency Department Stops Taking Critical Patients

  • By Andrew Edwards
    Special to the Grunion
  • ()
Long Beach Community Hospital Entrance.jpg

Community Medical Center Long Beach has stopped accepting emergency room patients receiving advanced life support care from paramedics, according to a statement from Long Beach’s city government.

City government released a statement Friday morning declaring that MemorialCare Health System, which operates the East Long Beach hospital, did not tell anyone in city government of plans to divert emergency patients needing advanced life support to other hospitals until Thursday. City government also reported the change was to go into effect this morning, so emergency responders and others had less than a full day to figure out how to adapt to the new situation.

“MemorialCare’s decision to divert ALS paramedic ambulances from Community Hospital less than 24 hours after notifying the Long Beach Fire Department, and without advanced notifications to City management, the mayor, city council or the Long Beach community is astounding, and leaves the City without the ability to appropriately plan,” the city’s statement read.

MemorialCare officials said Friday afternoon that through 2017, Community’s emergency department handled an average of six ALS patients a day brought in by ambulance.

“Our top priorities are our patients and families and serving the community. When giving notice to close a hospital, there are many regulatory steps the organization must take and agencies they must notify,” MemorialCare CEO John Bishop said in a prepared statement. “When we provided our 120-day notice, we immediately notified EMS.  After discussions between EMS and Community Medical Center Emergency Department physicians and members of the care team, they agreed upon a diversion plan for ALS patients.

Friday’s development comes after Monday’s announcement from MemorialCare will terminate its lease for Community Medical within four months as a result of staff departures. City government owns the hospital and its buildings. MemorialCare has said the hospital cannot remain open beyond mid-2019 due to the impracticability of bringing the campus in line with state government’s seismic safety mandates for hospitals.”

State Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell blasted Memorial Friday morning in a statement saying that they were endangering Long Beach residents.

“In less than a week, MemorialCare has again moved up the timeline to terminate services at Community Hospital, despite residents’ call to keep the only hospital in the east side open,” O’Donnell’s statement said. “MemorialCare’s initial announcement indicated that Community Hospital would stay open until June 30, 2019, giving the City and community time to identify options, including securing a new provider. MemorialCare must communicate its true intentions with the City and the community.  Residents’ lives are at stake.”

Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee said the emergency room diversion happened suddenly.

“We were informed at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday from the county EMS (Emergency Medical Services) agency that Community was on permanent diversion for ALS (Advanced Life Support) services,” DuRee said. “We were told to be prepared by Monday for no BLS (Basic Life Support) either… Where the real concern lies is when the patient is in extremis — full arrest, or major trauma from a traffic accident at the Traffic Circle, say — when minutes or seconds count.

“Their decisions, the things that have been done, could have an impact on the services that we are able to provide our citizens, and that does concern me.”

City officials and others, however, have disputed the contention that Community Medical cannot be preserved. Prior to Friday’s announcement, DuRee has said talks have taken place between the Fire Department and MemorialCare to figure out how to best cope with the looming loss of Community Medical’s emergency room.

Ricky Tadeo of the Los Angeles County EMS agency said he issued the diversion order after talking to MemorialCare officials, who said they were concerned they could not staff support services, including an intensive care unit.

“They first requested that we divert all ambulances, which we declined,” Tadeo said. “…We will be reevaluating the situation Monday in regards to BLS patients. We want to give the fire departments time to plan.”

The Long Beach Fire Department explains that advanced life support includes such paramedic services as cardiac monitoring, the administration of an intravenous line or medication, help with breathing and defibrillation.

Harry Saltzgaver contributed to this report.