The Bid Is In: LA County Wants To House Homeless At St. Vincent Medical Center

St. Vincent Medical Center (Reed Saxon/AP)

It's official: Los Angeles County has submitted a new bid to buy the bankrupt St. Vincent Medical Center so it can transform the facility into housing for the homeless and the poor.

"The County has submitted a bid for the St. Vincent Medical Center but the terms of the bid itself [are] confidential," said County spokesman Jesus Ruiz. Friday was the deadline to submit bids.

The Board of Supervisors voted at its Jan. 21 meeting to submit a bid; it unsuccessfully bid last year but the sale fell through, leading the hospital's owner to announce that it would shut down.

County CEO Sachi Hamai told the board on Jan. 21 that she preferred to buy the hospital with cash.

"I don't want to enter into any short-term or long-term obligations," she said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said at the meeting that the opportunity to try again to buy St. Vincent is "unique." She noted that the facility sits in an area that hosts the county's largest concentration of homeless people, "over 16,000."

The hospital, near downtown L.A., sits in Solis' supervisorial district.

"My vision is it wouldn't just be for [the] adult population, we could have a combination of seniors and also transitional age youth," Solis said.

She's hoping for funding from the state to help with that.

"I wholeheartedly support the County's bid to acquire St. Vincent Medical Center!" L.A. City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said in a statement Friday. St. Vincent is in his council district.

"There remain many unknown variables in this matter, and I will continue to lead the charge to explore all options," O'Farrell said.

Wade Trimmer, executive director of housing and homeless services for the National Health Foundation, said it's never a good thing for a community to lose a large hospital like St. Vincent, but he added that the county's plan is "still staying within the spirit of what that hospital was designed to do."

What's more Trimmer said, hospital rooms are already temporary housing, so they should be fairly easy to convert.

HOW WE GOT HERE

St. Vincent Medical Center's owner, Verity Health System, filed for bankruptcy in 2018. After various efforts to sell the facility fell through, Verity sought permission to close the hospital, which employs more than 1,000 people and has more than 350 beds.

On Jan. 8, a bankruptcy judge approved Verity's request. It's not clear exactly when the doors will close. Here's what we do know:

  • Doctors with offices on the premises have been given until the end of April to vacate.
  • Current St. Vincent patients will receive care until they're discharged or can be safely transferred to nearby hospitals.
  • The company also said that ambulance service will be diverted to emergency rooms in the vicinity.
  • That will include the eight hospitals within a three-mile radius of St. Vincent.

GO DEEPER: