California Hospital on Earthquake Fault to Close

March 7, 2018

A nearly-century-old Southern California hospital that sits on an active earthquake fault will close because it can’t meet state earthquake safety requirements, officials said this week.

Community Medical Center Long Beach announced it has submitted a four-month lease termination notice to the city, which owns the land.

A seismic study last November found an active fault under the facility, which has 200 beds and is about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, City News Service reported.

CEO John Bishop said much of the hospital, founded in 1924 and currently operated by MemorialCare, would have to be demolished in order to meet a June 30, 2019 deadline for complying with California’s seismic safety rules. The plan was determined to be not feasible, and the decision was made to shut down, he said.

“We exhaustively explored all options to continue operations at Community Medical Center as an acute care hospital,” Bishop said.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said the city is still looking at ways to keep a hospital on the site, “including state legislation, other possible operators and potential solutions to seismic challenges,” he said in a statement.

Hospitals across the state are struggling with finding the money to pay for upgrades under state seismic laws strengthened following the deadly and destructive 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, said spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea of the California Hospital Association.

“The seismic requirement is a very worthy public policy goal but it poses numerous challenges for compliance,” Emerson-Shea said. “First and foremost: funding.”

The CHA doesn’t track the number of hospitals statewide potentially affected by the law, she said. A message seeking information from California’s office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, which collects data about the state’s health care infrastructure, was not immediately returned.

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