Protesters rally against closure of Long Beach Community Hospital

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Jackie McKay has worked at Long Beach Community Hospital in the east part of the city for 33 years. She joined protesters Friday against the decision by hospital operator MemorialCare to shut down the facility by July.

"They're just trying to find a good way to exit out without looking like the bad guys that they are," she said.

The reason for the closure is that the 94-year-old hospital sits on an active earthquake fault.

"It does need some seismic repair for certain parts of it. There's much of it that's stable, but Memorial is leaving it because they don't want to do the seismic repairs," McKay said.

In a statement, MemorialCare's CEO John Bishop told Eyewitness News the following:

"We exhaustively explored all options to continue operations at community medical center as an acute care hospital. This proved not possible since large portions of the facility would have to be demolished, resulting in a small, 94-year-old hospital with no more than 20 acute care beds, which would not allow for viable acute care operations."

Protesters said that a smaller hospital is better than no hospital and are working to save the facility, but changes are already underway. Something that has alarmed the city of Long Beach and those who work there is that MemorialCare has begun diverting services to other hospitals.

MemorialCare has started to phase out some of their emergency room operations for advanced life support patients, sending them to other area hospitals.

"Our paramedics are having to drive past this facility and go to Memorial, to go to St. Mary's, to go to Los Alamitos Medical Center, other hospitals, which increases transportation times, response times and decreases the survivability of the patient," said Rex Pritchard, president of the Long Beach Firefighters Association.

According to MemorialCare, the hospital handles only 10 percent of Long Beach's emergency room visits and pointed to open beds being available at nearby facilities.
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