Los Angeles County Health Care Advocates ‘Plead’ With Officials To Reopen King-Harbor Hospital
Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday held a public hearing on the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, which served mostly minority and low-income patients and closed more than two months ago, the Los Angeles Times reports. County officials shut the hospital down after it failed a critical federal inspection. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services since has rerouted former King-Harbor patients to other facilities around the county.
According to the Times, the hearing, a "legal formality," was a "sparse gathering" of about 24 people, mostly health and legal advocates, who "pleaded with supervisors to allow for more community involvement in the effort to reopen King-Harbor." Many maintained that the low attendance is related to a lack of publicity about the hearing.
A meeting earlier this month organized by health officials drew several hundred community members in support of securing a new operator for the hospital. Those residents "demanded greater transparency from county health officials and questioned whether a new hospital would serve the specific needs of the largely minority and uninsured community," the Times reports. Seven organizations -- Temple Community Hospital, Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, SSB Solutions, Black Foundation/Care Group International, Catholic Healthcare West, Daughters of Charity and the University of California -- have expressed interest in operating a reopened King-Harbor. Formal proposals are due Nov. 5.
County health chief Bruce Chernof said that if the county is unable to find a private operator, it will take steps to administer the hospital itself. According to the Times, if the county ran the hospital again, it is unclear if the facility would be independent or part of another county-run health facility (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 10/31).
Los Angeles County supervisors, "while right to close Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, still have a practical and moral obligation to see that the county's poorest residents -- many of whom face special health problems -- receive the care they need," a Times editorial states.
"For decades, the county supervisors have listened to the voices of those who saw King-Harbor as a symbol of racial justice rather than those who begged for a quality hospital, but the "result was not only a failed hospital but a collapse of care," the editorial states.
"Today, some worry that the county will attempt to reassert itself in the management of a new hospital built from the wreckage"; however, "[w]e do not trust the county to run this hospital, and we will oppose, as anyone should, any recommendation that would involve the county in its future management," the editorial states. It concludes, "But we will insist, and others should as well, that the county find alternative ways to care for a population whose needs are so profound" (Los Angeles Times, 10/31).