Historically Black Medical School Sues Los Angeles County Over Breach of Contract
Officials from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, a historically black medical school, announced on Tuesday that it will file a $125 million lawsuit against Los Angeles County for an alleged breach of contract after the county cut ties between the school and its teaching hospital, Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 3/7). In 2006, county officials decided to transform the facility, now known as Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, from a 537-bed teaching hospital serving mostly minority patients to a community inpatient facility providing only basic services (AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/7). The action came after the hospital failed a federal inspection, which put $200 million in federal funding under question. At the time, the university voluntarily withdrew its accreditation. Los Angeles County supervisors agreed to restructure the hospital and put it under the management of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The county also ended financial support for 15 medical residency programs. Several years ago, accreditation officials ended Drew University's training programs in radiology and surgery because of poor oversight. The hospital received an extension of federal funds until March 31 and is subject to another federal inspection (Los Angeles Times, 3/7). The lawsuit alleges that the county broke a contract agreement dating back to 1972 that says the school would provide medical interns and residents to the hospital in exchange for monthly payments (AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/7). According to the school's 37-page complaint, county officials "have sought, and continue to seek, to make the Charles Drew University the scapegoat for the county's betrayal of its obligations to the impoverished and medically underserved in our community." In a statement, county health officials said they are "disappointed that Drew has chosen to pursue a lawsuit rather than work constructively with the county" as it tries to regain the confidence of the federal government (Los Angeles Times, 3/7). The school plans to reapply for accreditation in 2008 (AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.