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Owners solicit bids for now-shuttered Chinatown hospital site; one group proposes an urgent care center

Owners solicit bids for now-shuttered Chinatown hospital site; one group proposes an urgent care center
The Pacific Alliance Medical Center closed its doors on Dec. 11 after decades of operation in Chinatown. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A group of San Gabriel Valley physicians and hospitals have submitted a bid to open an urgent care and health center on the site of the shuttered Pacific Alliance Medical Center in Chinatown.

The hospital — Chinatown's only one — closed last December after 157 years, prompting alarm from the surrounding community, which includes thousands of Asian seniors who had grown to rely on the hospital for many types of healthcare.

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Activist groups and seniors have been lobbying politicians and investors to reopen the hospital. The property's owner, La Societe Francaise De Bienfaisance Mutuelle De Los Angel, put the land up for sale in January. The society's vice president, Gary Wilfert, said its officials will choose from among the highest bidders.

The physicians group, Allied Pacific, proposes a 24-hour urgent care facility that will also include specialty clinics for cardiology, ophthalmology, diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, as well as a health center for seniors. Allied Pacific is partnering on the bid with AHMC Healthcare, which operates five hospitals in the San Gabriel Valley and one in Orange County.

The proposal won't require much renovation, said Allied Pacific Chairman Kenneth Sim. And reclassifying the facility as an urgent care center that has no overnight patient population could reduce the costs of earthquake retrofitting, he said.

Chinatown seniors appealed to the physicians group for help after the hospital closed, Sim said.

"The Chinatown community wanted an option to keep the facility open to serve healthcare needs," Sim said.

Although there are multiple hospitals in the area that have absorbed the patients affected by Pacific Alliance Medical Center's closure, Chinatown still needs its own medical facility, said Dr. Paul Chu, a general internist who practices in the neighborhood.

"That hospital served as a safety net for the community," he said.

He said other hospitals won't be able to cater to the cultural and language requirements of Chinatown's seniors, who speak several different dialects of Chinese. More than 2,000 Asian seniors reside in Chinatown, which has one of the most senior populations of any neighborhood in the county.

The hospital's closure, Chu said, has already had a negative effect on the area. About a dozen different medical professionals have closed up their practices, forcing seniors to travel farther to places such as Monterey Park to get medical help in their own languages, said Chu and other doctors working in the area.

And the hospital's 600 employees and patients no longer spend money on local pharmacies, restaurants, private practices and community events, Chu said.

The auction for the property ended last week, Sim said. It's not clear how many bidders there are nor when the society will announce the auction's winner.

Sim said it's important that Chinatown has culturally conscious healthcare providers. "Many of us in the physicians group grew up in Chinatown and many of our parents were cared for in that part of town," he said.

About three decades ago, the hospital — then known as the French Hospital — was rescued from bankruptcy when a group of Chinatown doctors, as well as a Japanese entrepreneur, stepped in to operate the ailing facility.

The hospital had been struggling in recent years, posting operating losses of $53 million and $44 million in 2015 and 2016, respectively, according to state records.

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Twitter: @frankshyong

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