TORRANCE: South Bay Hospital To Become An Urgent Care Unit
Beach Cities Health District officials voted unanimously Monday to lease South Bay Medical Center to its Torrance competitor, Little Company of Mary Hospital, which will convert South Bay to an "outpatient-only satellite." The Los Angeles Times reports that Little Company of Mary will pay $325,000 annually for the duration of a 10-year lease, and will "open an urgent care center when the [South Bay] hospital and its emergency room close in two months." Monday's vote was the "culmination of [a] crisis" that started several months ago when the private operator that currently leases South Bay Medical Center, Tenet Healthcare Corp., announced it was "leaving the hospital." Even though Tenet had "pumped $16 million into the hospital," the Times reports, it had been unable to "attract enough patients and had lost many lucrative managed care health insurance contracts to Little Company of Mary and Torrance Memorial Hospital." In addition, a recent seismic report "put the costs of mandatory earthquake safety improvements as high as $39 million" if the facility were to remain an acute care hospital.
The Times reports that news of Tenet's withdrawal brought much "debate over the hospital's fate." Local physicians and other health care providers, who put forward a proposal, "wanted a chance to prove that the 203-bed hospital could become economically viable and was wanted and needed by the communities that built it." Jack Belasco, former Hermosa Beach Council member, said, "I walked precincts to see that this hospital got built. That's what we voted for. That's what we're still paying for." The physicians coalition took out full-page ads in two weekly newspapers and attracted "support" from concerned residents, who felt the board had "failed the community" by "not working harder to make the hospital a success." Women's and civil rights groups also "decried the [potential] loss of family planning and fertility services" under Little Company of Mary (Merl, 3/31).