King-Harbor Closure Strains Access to Care for Minorities in Los Angeles
The closure last week of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles has put a strain on the low-income minority community that it was constructed to serve four decades ago, the New York Times reports (Steinhauer, New York Times, 8/21). CMS officials earlier this month announced that King-Harbor no longer will be eligible to receive $200 million in federal funding after failing two inspections. CMS found the hospital fell below minimum federal standards in eight out of 23 areas assessed in an inspection in July. The hospital has been out of compliance with federal standards since January 2004 (Kaiser Daily Health Disparities Report, 8/14).
King-Harbor, formerly Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew University Medical Center, was opened in 1965 after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. The community was primarily black at the time, but the hospital in recent years has served neighborhoods that are mostly Hispanic.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said King-Harbor operated through "political correctness, not medical competence." He blamed local elected officials for refusing to close the hospital over the years despite numerous violations. Almost 90% of the hospital's patients either were Medicaid beneficiaries or uninsured, compared with California's statewide average of 37%, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The hospital also had a 47% negative operating margin, despite being the largest recipient of aid in the Los Angeles County health system.
King-Harbor has closed everything but outpatient services while county officials search for a private operator to reopen the facility (New York Times, 8/21).