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KING/DREW MEDICAL CENTER
I am writing regarding Marc B. Haefele’s recent article “Upheaval Update” [City Limits, December 1–7] on Los Angeles County Martin Luther King Jr./Charles R. Drew University Medical Center. The article made several false assumptions and left readers with the incorrect impression that mismanagement, bad care and labor strife are rampant at the hospital.
Let’s set the record straight. King/Drew Medical Center is the second-busiest trauma hospital in Los Angeles County. Last year, King/Drew provided trauma care to over 2,624 patients. That is over 14 percent of all the trauma care and 25 percent of all pediatric trauma care provided in Los Angeles County. King/Drew Medical Center is a busy teaching hospital that serves a disproportionate share of the uninsured, the indigent, those with very significant health needs and those who do not seek medical care on a regular basis. Even under these circumstances, King/Drew Medical Center’s malpractice claims and settlements are within the industry and community norm. King/Drew Medical Center has consistently earned accreditation by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, last time scoring 94 out of a possible 100. A perfect score of 100 was achieved in the ambulatory-care survey involving 250,000 patient visits annually, along with an equal 100 score in clinical laboratories as surveyed by the American College of Pathologists.
This is not to say that there is not room for improvement at King/ Drew, or any Department of Health Services facility, because there is. Los Angeles County is home to nearly 3 million uninsured. Almost one in three Los Angeles County residents depends on the safety net to obtain health-care services. Further, Los Angeles County — along with public-health systems across the nation — is coping with declining revenues and increasing demands for services. We need to improve, because we are being forced to do more with fewer resources.
With regard to the working conditions of interns and residents at King/Drew Medical Center, I met personally with representatives of the Joint Council of Interns and Residents, and have taken steps to address their concerns, referenced in your article, about call rooms and food service. In a perfect world, interns and residents would be paid far higher wages and work shorter hours. However, the reality is that we are a public system serving a population with the highest rate of uninsured patients in the nation. We operate teaching hospitals that provide interns and residents with the hands-on experience, oversight and education they need to become physicians. In return, we rely on their skills to meet our patients’ health-care needs.
There are a number of other important reforms being undertaken at this moment to improve our services to the population that King/Drew Medical Center and the entire county health system serves, including increasing outpatient care to reduce inappropriate use of emergency rooms and the implemen tation of clinical resource- management principles that ensure a consistent, efficient, high-quality standard of care for specific diseases.
As referenced in your article, during the early 1990s, Drew University had an extremely low first-time pass rate on internal-medicine boards. Since 1995, there have been dramatic improvements in the pass rate. Last year, 90 percent of internal-medicine residents who had completed their training at King/Drew Medical Center passed their boards on their first attempt. It is also important to note that Drew University oversees 14 approved residency programs involving over 300 interns and residents, and that three out of four residents pass their boards on the first attempt. As the article noted, Drew does not have the resources of larger universities. However, with a critical need for physicians and other health-care professionals who are willing to forgo the high salaries and perks of private practice, Drew University provides an important education and an opportunity to recruit highly skilled professionals who are willing to provide care to the most vulnerable in our community.
The article was wrong when it stated that the Board of Supervisors tabled the contract that I recommended for Rodney Armstead, M.D. After the item was continued for several weeks at my request, I asked that it be referred back to the Department of Health Services. I am still negotiating with Dr. Armstead and am hopeful that at some point the department will be able to benefit from his knowledge and expertise. The potential scope of work discussed with Dr. Armstead has always been systemwide in nature and not focused solely on King/Drew Medical Center.
The Department of Health Services is facing very significant â financial and policy challenges in the coming years. Despite this, we remain committed to ensuring the highest standard of care for the patients we serve. To imply otherwise is inaccurate and unfair.
Director of Health Services
Los Angeles County
CHARTER SCHOOLS DEAR EDITOR: Mr. Howard Blume misrepresented what I shared with him in a phone interview concerning an article about the Horizon Instructional System charter school[“No Classrooms, No Teachers, No Playgrounds, No Standards,” November 10–16]. When one of your staff members called to go over the information with me, I made certain that I clarified the fact that even though we are a Christian family, we do not use school time or funds to teach religion. We are well aware of what the California State Constitution states concerning this matter (Article IX, Section 8).