Los Angeles City Council Calls for Delay in King/Drew Trauma Center Vote
The Los Angeles City Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to delay a vote on closing the trauma unit at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Council member Janice Hahn said, "We feel like his decision to close this trauma center will have implications far beyond just the hospital at MLK. We believe it will strain an already strained (trauma) network system" (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 11/13). Hahn has proposed that the center remain open until a consultant completes an assessment of King/Drew (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 11/12).
The council does not have authority over the hospital, but its "stance reflects the political divide in Los Angeles" over the facility, the Times reports (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).
The county Board of Supervisors on Monday is scheduled to hold a state-mandated public hearing on closing the trauma unit (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/15).
Regulators have repeatedly cited King/Drew for patient care problems, and in September, the board proposed closing the trauma center and hiring outside managers to operate the hospital. The King/Drew trauma center, which provides care for patients with life-threatening injuries from incidents such as shootings and car accidents, treats about 2,150 patients annually, and the hospital emergency department treats 45,000 patients annually (California Healthline, 11/9).
Los Angeles Assistant Fire Chief Greg West told city council members Friday that city paramedics transported 918 patients to King/Drew's trauma center last year. Closing the trauma center will mean "longer transports" and higher risk of mortality for some patients, he added (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).
The King/Drew trauma unit has been closed to ambulances 81% of the time since Oct. 16, according to the Times. County officials maintain the ambulance diversions occurred because of a nursing shortage in the intensive care unit.
However, some residents believe the county "is conducting a field experiment so when the (hearing) comes along, they can just pull the curtain aside and say, 'We in fact closed trauma a month ago and everything's worked out fine,'" Dave Martin, a lawyer for Friends of King/Drew, said.
Hahn said the timing of the ambulance diversions "makes a mockery of the (public) hearings," adding that the county is "making these decisions outside of the process" (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 11/12).
In related news, county Department of Health Services Director Thomas Garthwaite in a letter sent Friday to the Board of Supervisors addressed the effect of closing the trauma unit, noting that although some patients might have longer ambulance rides, others would not.
According to a county analysis of 862 patients treated in the trauma center over a six-month period, "time was not a factor" in more than half of the cases because the injuries "were not immediately life-threatening," the Times reports. If the trauma unit were closed, three to six patients who had life-threatening injuries would have had to travel further, according to the analysis. In addition, of the 133 patients with "slightly less serious injuries," about one-third would have had to travel at least two additional miles to a trauma unit, and about 8% would have been two or more miles closer to a trauma unit if the King/Drew unit were closed.
"From these numbers, it would suggest that only a small number of people would have an increased chance of a bad outcome. Even people who do trauma networks don't pick absolute time as a criteria but emphasize the need to get a hospital that can take care of you," Garthwaite said.
Garthwaite added that closing the King/Drew trauma center would give county officials time to address certain problems in the hospital and work to preserve the hospital's national accreditation and federal funding (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).
On Monday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Denzel Washington and Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., are expected to rally with other community leaders to protest the closing of the King/Drew trauma center, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The rally is scheduled to start two hours before supervisors meet to hold their hearing.
Waters said, "We have been organizing for this mobilization and the response has been amazing. Our numbers are growing, and this community wants to make sure that its voice is heard on this potentially life-threatening issue" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/15).
KPCC's "Air Talk" on Friday included an interview with Garthwaite about the diversion of ambulances from King/Drew to other area hospitals (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 11/12). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In addition, the program on Monday will include a discussion of the public hearing on the proposed reduction of trauma services at King/Drew (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 11/12). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.