Wise Move Or Copout? King Hospital Given To Private Hands

The deal to reopen the troubled Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital will take it from county management and put it private hands. And while you might be scratching your head justifiably, wondering why a public institution is being given away, we would point to evidence that this might just be a good thing.

The New York Times today looks at the deal between the county and the UC Board of Regents, which would create a nonprofit organization run by seven board members, two of whom appointed by the university's president, two by the county, and three jointly chosen by both. The board would have ultimate oversight of the Willowbrook institution. The county will kick in $50 million about 63 million a year and the university will provide as many as 20 doctors as well as some management of the facilities.

And, speaking of facilities, we've previously questioned the wisdom of reopening what we dubbed the "hospital of horrors" -- a place where a woman famously died on the emergency room floor as she begged for help, a place where psychiatric patients were tasered, a place where vital signs were overlooked and patients died. It was shut down in 2007. We wondered if it would be better to build anew.

It turns out the 120-bed facility, scheduled to "reopen" in 2012, will, in fact, be mostly new, including a new main tower. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed the reopening, calls it a "new hospital."

"Reopening the existing hospital building is not contemplated because of significant seismic retrofit requirements and related costs," his official site states.


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