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Long Beach Hospital to Add 72 Beds for Children

June 13, 2005|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Long Beach Memorial Medical Center has the green light to go forward with a $276-million expansion that will add 72 much-needed pediatric beds in a region that has seen shrinking medical services because of hospital closures or cutbacks.

The Long Beach City Council voted 8 to 0 last week to approve a master plan for the project, which had been challenged by a coalition of environmental and labor activists.

Construction will begin in July on a four-story addition to Miller Children's Hospital on the 54-acre campus.

"I think Long Beach is very fortunate that we can talk about expanding hospital facilities, versus having horrible discussions about closing down services," said Councilwoman Laura Richardson.

The council's vote approved plans, spread over the next 10 to 15 years, to increase services for sick children and cancer patients at the not-for-profit medical center that houses two hospitals, Miller and Long Beach Memorial. The campus has 741 bed spaces, with 281 at Miller.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 17, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Hospital services -- An article in Monday's California section on Long Beach Memorial Medical Center's expansion plans said St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach had closed its obstetric program. St. Mary has neither shut down nor curtailed obstetric services.

"We've seen about a 25% increase in patient volume in the last five years," said Richard DeCarlo, Miller's vice president of operations.

The pediatric tower, which will include seven surgical suites, has been in the planning stage for five years and is expected to be completed by January 2008.

Miller has become an important pediatric resource for the Los Angeles region with the closing of children's trauma and obstetric programs at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles and St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach.

Preceding the vote were three hours of debate in which representatives of the Long Beach Coalition for Responsible Development questioned the effect of the project on housing and the environment.

The coalition cited issues such as the expected destruction of 51 affordable-housing units on the medical center grounds, possible soil contaminants from former oil operations and an old landfill, and the need to guarantee job opportunities for residents in building and staffing the facilities.

The coalition submitted close to 30 requests, and the medical center has agreed to nearly all of them, Richardson said.

"I think the coalition really succeeded," the councilwoman said. "They've helped us ensure a quality project will be done that's healthy for the residents."

Coalition representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The medical center agreed to coalition requests that construction trucks use low-sulfur diesel fuel to minimize air pollution, and that work crews avoid blowing possibly toxic dust into the neighborhood while excavating.

Hospital officials also said they plan to provide up to $3,000 per apartment in relocation aid for displaced tenants of the rental units owned by the medical center. The housing will not be demolished for at least three years, they added.

Richardson said she would work to enforce those promises, as well as a pledge by the medical center "that they will have an open door" in its relationship with the Service Employees International Union, which is trying to organize the medical center's nonunion technicians.

About $74 million of the $130-million first phase, the pediatric tower, will come from bonds issued under Proposition 61, which California voters approved in November to construct children's hospital facilities statewide.

Additional money for the expansion will come from fundraising and the medical center's operating budget, said DeCarlo, the hospital's vice president.

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