By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
KING/DREW WAS SUPPOSED TO ADDRESS the lack of access to quality health care in South L.A., whose African-American residents had been forced for years to drive all the way north to County-USC for medical care. Yet after it opened, King/Drew failed to provide care commensurate with the county’s other publicly run hospitals. As the situation at King/Drew worsened in recent years, other emergency rooms began disappearing, leaving residents in the region of South L.A. — the section of the county with the high number of gunshot victims — with fewer and fewer medical choices.
With nine weeks to go before King/Drew loses its funding, the supervisors essentially have two choices: Find a private company to run King/Drew, or put the hospital under the oversight of Harbor-UCLA, which still has an unblemished federal license. Yaroslavsky voiced strong doubts about turning King/Drew over to a private company, saying he fears such an entity may be more focused on profits than on health care. Yaroslavsky also warned that the county does not have the time to engage in lengthy negotiations with an outside company.
Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a conservative pol who usually favors privatization, said he is leaning toward Harbor-UCLA, not a private contractor, as the way to save King/Drew. Such a move would allow the county to remake dramatically King/Drew’s work force, with the hospital’s employees forced to reapply for their jobs — and possibly face reassignment elsewhere in the county, Antonovich said.
But placing King/Drew under the auspices of Harbor-UCLA comes with its own set of risks. Given its track record, King/Drew is certain to get another surprise inspection from the federal government, said Lott, who heads the hospital association. “If they failed a second time, not only would King/Drew’s medical certification be revoked, but so would Harbor-UCLA’s,” he said. “Harbor could be brought down by King/Drew’s inability to pass an inspection.”
In that scenario, the county would lose not one but two hospitals, plus the trauma center operated by Harbor-UCLA. In terms of shocking the public, the county Board of Supervisors would have found a way to outdo itself once and for all.
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