Costs of Efforts To Address Problems at King/Drew Medical Center Expected To Reach $47 Million This Year
Los Angeles County will spend about $47 million on reform efforts at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in fiscal year 2004-2005, a sum that is "far more than has been publicly discussed," the Los Angeles Times reports. The cost of the King/Drew overhaul comes in addition to the facility's regular budget (Weber, Los Angeles Times, 4/23).
The county is spending about $900,000 per week for visiting physicians and nurses, the AP/New York Times reports. Of the 524 nursing positions at King/Drew, 325 are vacant. King/Drew hires higher-cost nurses from temporary nurse staffing agencies to fill those positions.
The hospital now also must pay for medical work that previously was done by medical residents until the hospital's physician training programs were closed (AP/New York Times, 4/24).
In addition, county officials expect revenue at King/Drew to decrease by about $20 million because of a decrease in patient volumes.
King/Drew receives more money per patient than other Los Angeles County hospitals. According to the Los Angeles Times, plans to reduce the hospital's budget to make it more consistent with other county hospitals' funding levels "have been postponed for fear of disrupting reforms" (Los Angeles Times, 4/23).
Navigant Consulting, the firm hired to address patient care problems at King/Drew, in March requested a $3.4 million increase to its contract, up 25% from $13.2 million the firm is paid under the current contract.
The additional funds would provide $36,000 per month for each of five nurse managers and $52,200 monthly for a physician manager at King/Drew.
In February, the county Department of Health Services denied a request from Navigant for $5 million in additional funds and asked the company to request a lower amount (California Healthline, 3/21).
Supervisor Michael Antonovich on Friday said, "Dumping good money into a sinkhole does not fix the problem," adding that money spent addressing problems at King/Drew was "compounding the fiscal meltdown" of county DHS, which faces budget deficits in coming years. "We've reached that point where I don't support giving them any more," Antonovich said, recommending that the hospital downgrade to a smaller community hospital and sever ties with Drew University Medical School.
Thomas Garthwaite, director of county DHS, said, "It's the cost of having a crisis, and it's the cost of taking aggressive action."
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "I don't think we can sustain the King/Drew situation forever," adding, "There's going to be a fish-or-cut-bait point. All of the issues -- financial, incompetence, corruption -- are all going to contribute to when that point is" (Los Angeles Times, 4/23).