Willow Urgent Care in Signal Hill officially closed at 1pm on Wednesday, April 30, however three Long Beach urgent-care centers, including a new facility in Los Altos, are still available to local patients.
On the day of the closure, patients were turned away from the medical offices located at Willow Street and Temple Avenue. Located in the same complex, called Willow Medical Center, Liberty Pacific Medical Imaging and Memorial HealthTech Lab stayed open, but it’s unclear for how long.
Patients in need of emergency care were notified to call 9-1-1 or go to a local emergency room. Those with non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries were provided a list of urgent-care and after-hours-care locations and told to check with their insurance providers.
There are three urgent-care centers in Long Beach: one at 2110 N. Bellflower Blvd. in Los Altos that opened in January 2013 by MemorialCare Medical Group, an affiliate of MemorialCare Health System; Reddy Urgent Care at 123 Atlantic Ave.; and Urgent Care Plus at 555 E. Ocean Blvd. in downtown Long Beach.
Urgent-care centers are considered a convenient alternative to crowded emergency rooms, providing same-day, immediate care for patients with non-life-threatening health conditions.
In 2011, health-care company Optum Health acquired Memorial Healthcare Independent Physicians Association (MHIPA), which has operated the urgent-care facility in Signal Hill for nearly a decade. MHIPA provided no reason for the closure in a statement sent via email to the Signal Tribune three weeks ago.
MHIPA stated that “there are a number of local options for urgent care in the community,” identifying three other urgent-care centers in the local area: Seal Beach Urgent Care, Urgent Care Plus in downtown Long Beach and Cypress Urgent Care.
MHIPA added, “Patients should check the member-services department of their health plan for additional urgent care/after-hours care locations in their plan’s provider network.”
Asked this week to provide a reason for the closure, Optum Health spokesperson Brad Lotterman again declined to comment via email. “We don’t have anything to add to our statement,” he stated.
Two weeks ago, Signal Hill city officials speculated about reasons for the closure during the Council meeting on April 15. Councilmember Michael Noll stated that he was “floored” about the news.
“I think this is going to kind of be a big problem for the city because I’ve seen a lot of our workers had to go there for cuts and bruises,” Noll said. “My neighbor next door went there, and they recommended her to go directly to surgery. So there are a lot of uses there, and [the owners] didn’t give any information.”
Noll added that the closure of the urgent-care and the 14,000-square-foot Willow Wellness Center, a health-care facility for seniors at 2799 Temple Ave. that was also owned by MHIPA, would leave some “problems” for retail vacancies.
“I’d like to see us get some information so we can make it available to our citizens because it’s going to cause some retail problems and hopefully not a life,” he said.
Vice Mayor Larry Forester said his doctor told him that the reason for the closure had to do with plans to “consolidate” medical-office facilities. He noted that a new urgent-care facility and physician office opened at Bellflower Boulevard and Stearns Street in Los Altos last year, taking the place of a Borders bookstore.
The new urgent-care facility, which offers services through MemorialCare Medical Group, has expanded the number of physicians it provides since opening, now offering a total of 15 physicians, according to MemorialCare’s website.
The new medical complex, located in a 30,000-square-foot, two-story building at the Los Altos MarketCenter, provides a “one-stop shop” for local families, offering primary-care services, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and select specialties. Lab and digital x-ray services are also available on-site.
The Urgent Care Center in Los Altos is open 12 hours (9am to 9pm) on the weekdays and eight hours (9am to 5pm) on weekends and holidays, with office hours from 8am to 9pm on Mondays through Fridays, according to the website.
“We’re very pleased with the office and the services we’ve brought to the people of this area of Long Beach,” said Dr. David Kim, facility medical director for the Los Altos facility in an online statement. “As part of the MemorialCare Health System, we are committed to providing the best care possible to our community. All of our primary care physicians are accepting new patients. We hope the people of this community will consider us as their ‘home’ for their healthcare needs.”
MemorialCare Medical Group takes most major HMO, PPO, POS insurance plans, along with several Anthem Blue Cross- and Health Net-covered California plans, Medicare, all Medicare supplement plans and several Medicare Advantage HMO plans, according to MemorialCare’s website.
Reached by phone this week, Signal Hill Mayor Ed Wilson, who was absent from the last Council meeting, said he hasn’t spoken with any Willow Urgent Care representatives yet but speculated that the closure was likely a business decision after MHIPA was acquired.
“Obviously, I’m very disappointed that it is closed or is closing,” Wilson said. “I thinks it’s an asset to the community… A lot of times when companies merge, they do close different locations as a way of saving costs. Does it take away from people that they’re serving? That’s the issue we would have.”
Willow Urgent Care’s website redirects patients to Monarch Health Care, which is part of MHIPA, noting that patients can direct requests for copies of medical records to Monarch’s offices in Irvine. Monarch lists more than 40 urgent-care centers in Orange County, including Seal Beach, Westminster, Cypress and Huntington Beach.