Pacific Alliance Medical Center, the oldest hospital in Los Angeles, is expected to close in December and lay off hundreds.

Officials with the 157-year-old hospital in Chinatown said the massive cost of a required seismic retrofit is forcing the institution to close when its lease expires Dec. 11.

“PAMC does not own the land on which our hospital sits, and the owner is unwilling to sell the land to us,” the hospital announced in a statement late last month. “The hospital building does not meet current California seismic standards and it is not economically viable for us to invest nearly $100 million to build a hospital on land that we would not own.”

The center, located at the corner of Hill and College streets, will lay off 640 workers, according to a recent state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification.

The announcement to close the 128-bed acute care hospital comes four months after Pacific Alliance agreed to pay $42 million in penalties after a federal whistleblower lawsuit that claimed it filed false medical claims in a kickback scheme.

The medical center opened in 1860 as French Hospital to serve a settlement of French immigrants. A landmark Joan of Arc statue still stands on its front lawn.

The hospital nearly closed in 1989, but was rescued by a physicians group and members of the Chinese community.

Pacific Alliance MC Ltd. is listed as the current property owner of the 66,000-square-foot facility built in 1981, according to real estate records.

Hospital officials said they would work to avoid any disruption of patient care.

“PAMC will remain appropriately staffed until it closes,” officials said in a statement.

The company reported nearly $17 million in operating losses through the first half of the year, according to a state report.

– Dana Bartholomew

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