By Joe Brizzolara, Contributor
Community Hospital in Long Beach, which has been closed since 2018, was the site of a film production this week angering some residents who feel the facilities could be better used to alleviate local hospitals experiencing dwindling ICU capacity amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Nine permits for filming at the site have been issued by the city since June 2020, spokesperson Kevin Lee confirmed. New Line Cinema was the production company filming at Community Hospital this week.
Only 71 ICU beds are available in the entire county, health officials said Tuesday, as harrowing decisions regarding whether to transfer some patients out of long term care facilities where they may perish awaiting a hospital bed are being made by caregivers. Long Beach’s five local hospitals have ICU’s which are 98.5% full as of Wednesday, the city reported, but the number fluctuates quickly.
Earlier today John Molina, principal of Molina, Wu, Network (MWN) who operate Community Hospital, told The Grunion that an inspection of the hospital failed to result in licensure by the California Department of Health last week due to “a number of items that need to be addressed.” MWN spokesperson Brandon Dowling said the re-opening date is uncertain but could potentially happen before year’s end.
A post about filming at Community Hospital, along with an image of a production trailer in front of the 94-year old building, stirred debate on the Facebook page “Long Beach, Calif.,” with some defending the city and hospital operators and others condemning them.
The hospital’s previous operator, MemorialCare Health System, opted to not renew their license after the state closed the facility due to seismic concerns.
Since the hospital’s closure, officials with the city and MWN have announced multiple soon-to-be re-openings that have been delayed.
Molina shot back against the criticism on a Facebook thread where the photograph of film trucks had been reposted.
“There is no blame,” Molina’s comment reads. “It is not the mayor’s fault and not even the (Governor’s) fault. We are working every single hour of every single day in an effort to get the hospital open. The movie shoots were planned months ago. Is this the best scenario? Absolutely not. We’d like to be open. It would be great if there weren’t so many hoops to jump through. Unfortunately, we inherited a building that needed way more deferred maintenance than anyone anticipated.”
When asked about a final inspection date, officials with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) were nondescript, telling Signal Tribune via email that the state “continues to work with Community Hospital Long Beach and its operators on details related to the facility’s potential licensure.”
The hospital, which was leased to MWN by the city in October 2019 for $1 a year, must pass a myriad of regulations before it can be licensed by the state.
Earlier this year, Councilmember Daryl Supernaw used $250,000 in city funds allocated for his office to make repairs to elevators at Community Hospital in order to assist with compliance.
In an email dated March 18 acquired by Signal Tribune from Molina to Supernaw, Molina applauded the CDPH for its “lightening speed” in assisting MWN with reaching compliance. He also asked for additional city funds to cover the costs of staffing and equipment.
“It appears that we will get licensed this week or next!” Molina wrote. “It is very impressive to see how a bureaucracy can gear up in times of need.”
Supernaw declined to comment for this story, directing all inquiries to John Molina.
Molina told the Long Beach Post earlier this month that doctors and nurses had already been staffed, though auxiliary workers would need to be employed upon licensure. He also told the publication that 21 intensive care unit beds could be created upon opening.
Companies that were issued filming permits include Warner Brothers Television, CBS Television Studios, and 20th Century Fox TV.
As of press time, representatives with MWN and New Line Cinema did not return requests for comment.