Don't Come Here, Says Long Beach Hospital

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Long Beach Memorial Medical Center officials Monday urged public and private ambulance services -- whenever possible -- not to bypass other hospitals in order to bring patients to the Long Beach facility.

At present, ambulances transport patients to the medical center from as far as 30 miles away, passing other hospitals capable of handling the cases, according to a Long Beach Memorial Medical Center statement.

The practice "has hindered the hospital's ability to serve its own community," according to the statement.

"We are a community hospital for our community," said Rick Damrel, medical center representative. "It is hard for us to be a community hospital for all of South Los Angeles."

According to the statement, Long Beach Memorial "is not immune to the healthcare crisis that is currently affecting the nation."

More than 80 hospitals and nearly 70 emergency departments have closed in California in the last decade, "with a disproportionate number in Los Angeles County," the statement continued. The result has been a "steady increase of patients from well outside of the greater Long Beach area," according to the statement.

Long Beach Memorial Medical Center also announced it will reduce its number of general-care beds by 61 -- bringing the number to 392, a move that will "more closely align with the needs of the Greater Long Beach area," according to the statement.

Private beds in specialty areas such as cancer, heart and orthopedics will be added, the medical center announced.

"Yes, we're reducing the overall number of beds, but we're not reducing our service in any way," Damrel said.

Meanwhile, an extended triage and wait management plan will be implemented for the emergency department, with physicians and staff monitoring patients in the waiting area.

The changes began on Nov. 1 and were expected to be completed by the month's end.

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