L.A. County Health Chief Resigns; Talks To Re-open King-Harbor Stall
On Thursday, Bruce Chernof announced his resignation as director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Chernof said his resignation was unrelated to the failed negotiations of reopening Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, a situation that had strained his relationship with the county Board of Supervisors, according to the Times.
Also on Thursday, county officials confirmed that Pacific Hospital in Long Beach had withdrawn from negotiations to reopen King-Harbor. Pacific was the only organization in negotiations with the county to reopen the facility.
County DHS faces a projected budget deficit of $750 million over the next two years and is tasked with moving County-USC Medical Center from its current facility to a new, smaller building. The move has been delayed until September or October (Therolf et al., Los Angeles Times, 4/11).
In addition, Chernof and his staff were "berated" by the board after presenting a plan to remedy the budget shortfall by closing 11 county health clinics, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Chernof was the fourth director since 1995 and was the highest paid county official, earning $323,906 in 2007.
Chernof said he plans to become the founding CEO of a foundation that will focus on information technology, education, research and policy related to health care for seniors (Los Angeles Daily News, 4/10).
Officials did not say who would replace Chernof (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/11).
County officials did not disclose the reasons behind Pacific's withdrawal.
Some health experts had criticized the plan to have Pacific reopen King-Harbor, maintaining that the 184-bed Pacific was too small and inexperienced to run such a large and complicated public facility.
County Supervisor Yvonne Burke said, "I'm eager to find out if there is anything that can be done to bring them back to the table."
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he hoped Pacific's withdrawal was not a negotiating tactic. He added that it was still unclear whether Pacific would have been able to sufficiently provide care for the county's uninsured or been willing to reach an agreement with the union representing county health workers.
Faustino Bernadett, Pacific's owner, said on Wednesday that "the county has to define what size hospital is appropriate for the community," adding, "Once that is decided, that will give us confidence to move forward or not move forward" (Los Angeles Times, 4/11).