By CJ Dablo
Beach is starting a new chapter in its long history to provide health care in Long Beach.
On April 29, the hospital, located at 1720 Termino Ave., officially became the sixth hospital under the MemorialCare Health System, a healthcare network that serves both Los Angeles and Orange counties. The facility is now one of three hospitals in the network that serves the Long Beach area.
The transition to MemorialCare Health systems took about 10 months to culminate in April’s official announcement, according to one hospital official.
“We believe strongly . . .that ensuring access to health care on the east side of Long Beach is absolutely critical,” said Diana Hendel, one of the key players who helped plan for the transition. Hendel serves as the CEO of Community Hospital Long Beach, Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach.
“I think it’s just one more step towards stabilizing and sustaining the community service,” she said in a telephone interview, explaining how the new transition helps provide access to health care over a newly expanded region.
“We are here for every single citizen in the greater Long Beach area,” Hendel said.
Hendel highlighted the emergency room and acute-care health services available from Community Hospital Long Beach and emphasized the hospital’s reputation for providing mental-health services.
The announcement of Community Hospital Long Beach’s new management was welcome news to the councilmember who serves the district. “This is a huge benefit to our city and will preserve health care on the East Side,” said Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell in an emailed statement.
The hospital, a designated historic landmark that’s known for its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, has been part of the city’s landscape for several decades. The neighborhood hospital looks more like a Spanish hacienda with its wrought ironwork over its windows and arches and central fountain in a courtyard area. Sitting in the Wilton Street Historic District, the hospital has served the east Long Beach area since it opened in 1924.
But it’s the atmosphere of the hospital that one former state lawmaker remembers well. Former State Senator and Assemblymember Betty Karnette remembers the hospital as a “friendly place” for the constituents.
“And they felt more comfortable there than at the bigger hospitals,” said Karnette in an interview Tuesday. “[When] you went there, it was like going to your family, and there are people in Long Beach [who are] very attached to Community Hospital.”
Karnette remembered when the hospital had shut down in 2000 and then later reopened the following year. The former California lawmaker suggested that the push by the community to preserve the hospital may relate to the overall feeling and affinity for Long Beach.
“It may have a large population,” said Karnette, “But [Long Beach] will always have a small-town feeling. And that’s why people like that small-town feeling and small-town hospital.”
Dr. Eugene Temkin, MD, has fond memories of the hospital where he served from 1958 to 1985. Temkin said he helped start the hospital’s former cardiac department and intensive care and cardiac units.
“We had a lovely, wonderful unit, even as I look back. We still had an outstanding department,” Temkin said of the departments where he served. He remembered a cooperative spirit from both the staff and the administration.
The 90-year-old doctor from Long Beach was also a patient there. He sought treatment at his neighborhood facility when he had back problems and also when he had a stroke. He said he was pleased that the hospital joined MemorialCare Health System.
Temkin emphasized the advantage of the hospital’s emergency services. He observed that there are shorter wait times at this facility than at other larger hospitals.
“Community [Hospital] takes care of this side of the city,” said Temkin, pointing out that the hospital has the ability to handle a major catastrophe. “It’s important to know there would be a facility to treat people in the event of an emergency.”
And the hospital’s CEO, Hendel, recognized that there were possibilities to serve more emergency room patients at its newest hospital. Although the emergency medical service personnel know Community Hospital’s services, usually the patient decides which hospital they want for treatment during an emergency, according to Hendel. The other two facilities at Miller Children’s and Memorial Medical Center are trauma centers.
“There is capacity, and there is ability for more patients to be cared for at Community without a doubt,” Hendel said. “We certainly want that word to be out.”
Although they’ve now already assumed the lease of the hospital campus from the City of Long Beach, the hospital network still needs to roll out more details during this transition. Hendel said that they will soon officially announce the appointment of a new hospital administrator who will begin at the end of the month.