Catholic Healthcare West sees only red ink, but as many as five other organizations see potential profit.
At issue is CHW's 278-bed Long Beach (Calif.) Community Medical Center, which is slated to close Oct. 2.
San Francisco-based CHW, California's largest hospital operator, intends to transfer its deed to the hospital to the city of Long Beach on Sept. 30 and close the hospital two days later.
CHW said in June that it would shut down Long Beach Community completely and not seek another buyer, citing losses totaling $38 million during the past five years. But it quickly backed off those plans after scathing criticism from community groups, which said CHW was depriving the city of much-needed patient care.
CHW then agreed to transfer the hospital deed to the city for the purpose of finding another operator and to only suspend the facility's license, so that a new operator could reopen the hospital without going through a protracted application process for a new license.
Among those interested in acquiring the hospital is Vanguard Health Systems, the Nashville-based for-profit hospital chain. Vanguard owns three other facilities in nearby Orange County: 114-bed Huntington Beach Hospital, 139-bed La Palma Intercommunity Hospital and 219-bed West Anaheim Medical Center.
A Vanguard spokeswoman confirmed the company's interest in Long Beach Community but declined further comment.
Also submitting a bid to the city was the Kenko Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Community Hospital of Gardena, a 35-bed stand-alone for-profit 10 miles north of Long Beach.
Community Hospital of Gardena President and Chief Executive Officer Raymond Smith said that Long Beach Community could be profitable if operated with a reduced number of beds and services. "We saw a tremendous grass-roots effort going on in Long Beach to save the hospital; and if we could help the city operate the hospital, we would," he said.
Other bidders include Long Beach-based Vantage Health Systems, which proposed converting the hospital to outpatient services only; Fullerton-based Critical Medical Services; and a coalition of local physicians.
Long Beach Assistant City Manager Christine Davis said city officials would meet with the bidders before Oct. 2, but she could not say when a decision would be made about which group will operate the hospital or how the group will be selected.
Meanwhile, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer last week conducted a public hearing in Long Beach looking into CHW's planned closure of the hospital. Deputy Attorney General Mark Urban wouldn't say whether Lockyer would take further action.