COUNTY-USC MEDICAL CENTER: Assembly OKs Funds To Rebuild Hospital Despite Supervisors’ Opposition
The California Assembly voted yesterday to provide state funds to rebuild the earthquake-damaged County-USC Medical Center, "but only if the county supervisors relent and build a larger hospital," the Los Angeles Times reports. Prodded by state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles), state Sen. Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) and Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) -- the "county's assertive Latino delegation" -- the House voted to allocate $225 million to rebuild an expanded, 750-bed facility. However, the measure faces opposition from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who voted last November for a 600-bed facility and "have threatened to build an even smaller hospital if the state money is not forthcoming." Last month, Los Angeles County supervisors approved the 600-bed replacement facility, although a coalition of California's lawmakers charged that a smaller facility would threaten the health of residents in the mostly Latino area surrounding the facility. Despite the Latino opposition and the recommendations of the county Department of Health Services, "four of five supervisors" last month voted in favor of the smaller facility. Villaraigosa and Solis attempted to sweeten the deal Tuesday by offering $40 million to fund three outpatient clinics within the county, provided the supervisors agree to the larger hospital. The board "turn[ed] up its nose" at the offer, according to the Times.
The Bill Goes On
Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who favored the smaller hospital, "called the bill 'irresponsible' and said that, far from providing resources, it would obligate the county to either overspend or cut back on health care." Supervisor Gloria Molina called the move to provide funds for the 750-bed hospital, "the only option that protects the county's fragile safety net." The funding bill passed the House in a 55-20 vote, and it moves to the Senate today, were the Times reports it "could still be amended to fund a smaller hospital" (Bernstein, 8/12).