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County submits bid to purchase St. Vincent’s Med Center

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has submitted a bid to purchase St. Vincent Medical Center in Westlake to be used for homeless housing and assistance, it was announced Feb. 7.

“Los Angeles County is best suited to take the lead in turning St. Vincent Medical Center into a facility that could help address our need for more affordable housing, interim housing and wraparound mental and medical health services,” said County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who made the proposal to purchase it to the Board of Supervisors. “Part of my strategy has been to repurpose underutilized or unused county assets to offset our lack of affordable housing. If we are to effectively combat our homelessness crisis, we must be innovative and creative in our approach.”

Details of how much the county is bidding and the proposed purchase were not immediately available. It was also unknown if anyone else has bid on the hospital.

“This is not business as usual,” Solis said. “This is boldly placing the community’s needs first.”

Los Angeles City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee advanced a proposal to the full council to try to acquire St. Vincent Feb. 5.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell emphasized his support for the city’s effort to try to acquire the St. Vincent Medical Center, and he also praised the county’s action to bid on it.

“I wholeheartedly support the county’s bid to acquire St. Vincent Medical Center,” O’Farrell said. “The city will continue to engage with any and all parties in the goal of repurposing the (medical) center to help address our homelessness crisis. Angelenos are aligned in this once-in-a-generation opportunity. There remain many unknown variables in this matter, and I will continue to lead the charge to explore all options.”

Nonprofit Verity Health System announced in January that a proposed sale of the hospital in the Westlake District had fallen through, and the facility would be closing.

According to Verity, the system filed court papers seeking authority to close the medical center at 2131 W. Third St. Verity Health has been working through Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had hoped to transfer ownership of the hospital and three other medical centers.

“We know that it will no longer operate as a hospital. We know it can be repurposed as an acute care center, and there are facilities [that can be] repurposed for permanent homes as well,” O’Farrell said during the committee meeting. “It has it all.”

O’Farrell said acquiring the 366-bed hospital is going to be costly, but it has not yet been appraised. However, he said it could cost less than what it would to build the same number of beds for the homeless.

“What I hope is that, as we move forward with the appraisals … some good Samaritan will go to auction and … buy it and turn it over so that we can utilize it,” O’Farrell said. “But it will take all of us.”

O’Farrell said during his recent trips to the state capital that he discussed the idea of purchasing St. Vincent with state legislators.

“I don’t really see any significant obstacle of opposition (from) folks who just don’t like the idea of it because the need is so great and everyone realizes that,” O’Farrell said.

Councilman David Ryu said he was supportive of the project but that there may be ways to cut expenses, such as using another building on the campus for housing and to build on the vacant spaces.

“That might actually be cheaper than refurbishing the existing building and might be cheaper to keep the hospital in a medical setting,” Ryu said.

Independent Wire Services