Assembly Hearing Addresses Problems at King/Drew
A four-hour Assembly hearing on Friday in Willowbrook assessed problems at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center and its affiliated medical school, the Los Angeles Times reports. During the hearing, Rosemary Haggins, who recently was suspended as King/Drew's nursing director, said that she repeatedly had warned Los Angeles County health officials about nurse staffing shortages and other deficiencies at the hospital but was ignored (Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 1/10). Haggins was suspended last month while the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services investigates a state report that found that nurses did not adequately examine the patients who died at the facility and in one case lied about performing tests ordered by a doctor. In addition, the report indicated that the hospital's nurses do not meet basic expectations for patient care and are responsible for errors and omissions in patient records and for not making changes despite identification of problems with physicians and patient care (California Healthline, 12/16). Also during Friday's hearing, county DHS Director Thomas Garthwaite announced that Dr. Arthur Fleming on Dec. 24 was suspended from his position as head of the doctor training surgery program at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Garthwaite also announced that Dr. Roger Peeks, medical director of the Alameda County Medical Center, would serve as medical director at King/Drew beginning in February. Fred Leaf, chief operating officer for the county DHS, said that Peeks is "fresh to the situation," adding, "He doesn't have any ties to this particular area. There's a certain cadre of staff there who've been there for years and have used the same business techniques and clinical techniques for years. We needed a fresh face." In response to the suggestion that the University of California-Los Angeles could become involved in overseeing King/Drew's physician training, Dr. Michael Drake, vice president of health affairs for the University of California system, said that UC could play an advisory role, adding that "the difference between advising and supervising is something that I have to make perfectly clear."
During Friday's hearing, Dr. Harry Douglas, interim president of the medical school, said that he is dedicated to resolving the school's accreditation problems, improving the school's relationship with the hospital and community and creating an "environment of excellence," the Times reports. He added, "A continued erosion of King/Drew's resource base is a prescription for failure" (Los Angeles Times, 1/10). Last Friday, the medical school placed President Dr. Charles Francis on paid administrative leave, following a task force report stating that he had lost the confidence of many members of the hospital's board, faculty and surrounding community. The task force report also said that it is not possible to sustain the school's 18 residency training programs at King/Drew given its average of 200 inpatients; recommended a cooperative medical residency program with a larger, more prestigious institution; called for the school to establish a "culture of accountability"; and recommended a leadership transition at the school. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education last month recommended closing King/Drew's neonatal residency program. ACGME previously found King/Drew's oversight of its medical resident training programs to be substandard and decided to revoke accreditation for the facility's surgery and radiology residency programs, effective June 2004 (California Healthline, 1/8). NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show" on Monday discussed problems at King/Drew with commentator Connie Rice (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR, 1/12). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.