Los Angeles County Board Votes To Approve $13.2 Million Contract for Consulting Firm To Manage King/Drew Medical Center
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to hire Chicago-based Navigant Consulting to restructure and take over the day-to-day operations of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 10/20).
The board in September unanimously supported a plan to close the hospital's trauma center and hire outside managers to run the hospital to address patient care problems. County officials last week presented to supervisors' aides a plan under which Navigant will complete a comprehensive review of facility operations and make recommendations for changes.
The head of the consulting team will report to county Department of Health Services Director Thomas Garthwaite, who will have to approve any firing or disciplining of employees. The contract marks the first time the county has allowed an outside group to take over operations at one of its hospitals (California Healthline, 10/14).
The county will pay Navigant as much as $13.2 million to begin overseeing the hospital on Nov. 1. The consulting firm, which will operate King/Drew for up to a year, will deliver its first report to the board in 60 days and will file a comprehensive assessment by Jan. 3, the AP/Orange County Register reports.
According to the AP/Register, the "unprecedented contract" is an effort to stave off the loss of federal funds and cure "systemic problems at the medical center." The hospital "faces the threat" of losing $200 million in federal funding, and if the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations rescinds its approval, the facility could lose an additional $15 million in private insurance revenue, the AP/Register reports (Jablon, AP/Orange County Register, 10/20).
Supervisors on Tuesday questioned county DHS officials and two representatives from Navigant about various issues, including employee termination procedures and Navigant's related consulting experience, the Times reports. County DHS officials said they would "fast track" any employee removals. Although client confidentiality rules prevented Navigant officials from providing details of the company's past engagements, they cited recent work at two other hospitals (Los Angeles Times, 10/20).
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "The reason we're spending $13 million to bring you in is because patient safety and employee and physician confidence has been a deferred dream at this facility, and we can defer it no longer," adding, "We've got to fix this thing. We've got to fix it yesterday" (AP/Orange County Register, 10/20). Yaroslavsky said that federal regulators and JCAHO "have given this hospital a pass for many years, decades in fact, and they obviously missed something just as we did. I think because of the history we should demand more."
Fred Leaf, who heads the county's interim task force at King/Drew, said, "We were, I think, brutally open with the firm."
Kae Robertson, Navigant's project executive for King/Drew, said the company is prepared for the engagement, adding, "We had a lot of detail" about the facility and its importance to the community (Los Angeles Times, 10/20).
The board on Tuesday also voted against Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke's motion to delay public hearings to consider closing King/Drew's trauma center.
Community activist Celes King on Tuesday had urged supervisors to postpone the Nov. 15 hearings until Navigant delivers its January report (AP/Orange County Register, 10/20).
KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" on Tuesday discussed the management transfer at King/Drew with Times reporter Charles Ornstein (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 10/19). 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.