LONG BEACH: State Opens Inquiry into Transfer of Two Hospital Units
The state attorney general's office this week launched an inquiry into allegations that Catholic Healthcare West, owner of the financially troubled Long Beach Community Medical Center, improperly transferred heart center and neonatal unit services to St. Mary Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports. In a letter to the state, eight labor leaders charged that CHW has "compromised care ... in its effort to close the 278-bed [Long Beach] facility" and has violated state law and its agreement with Long Beach to operate an acute care hospital on the city-owned site. "It appears that Catholic Healthcare West's actions are intended to improve the market position of its other asset (St. Mary) rather than best serve the community," the leaders wrote. According to the letter, CHW moved the heart center last year against recommendations by a steering committee that the company consolidate all heart surgery at Long Beach Community. Now, labor officials want the state to step in and force CHW to run Long Beach Community "as a fully equipped facility and [to] continually try to improve medical care for patients." CHW announced in June it will shut down the hospital by the end of the year because of mounting losses each year and a failed effort to save the facility. East Long Beach residents, labor leaders and the hospital's doctors, however, have fought against the planned closure. Attorney General spokesperson Sandra Michioku said the inquiry is only a "preliminary" step to determine if further action, ranging from recovering assets to criminal prosecution, should be taken (Weikel, 7/25). David Bullock of the Service Employees International Union Local 399 lauded the inquiry, noting that the attorney general has put "the investigatory powers of his office to work to uncover the true story of what's happening to this community hospital" (SEIU release, 7/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.