LOS ANGELES COUNTY: County-USC ‘Extension’ in Baldwin Park Hits Skids
A plan once praised as "a boon to the county's growing uninsured population" is now "in limbo" because Los Angeles County and state officials are bickering over how many beds -- 60, 80 or 125 -- a proposed public facility in Baldwin Park should have. And if officials don't act fast, the intended site could become a new Save-On drug store, the Los Angeles Times reports. The dispute began when "[m]edical experts, Supervisor Gloria Molina and Latino state Legislators complained" that earthquake-damaged County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights was being rebuilt at a size too small to serve residents of San Gabriel Valley and East L.A. The new Baldwin Park Hospital would act as an extension to serve those residents, many of who are uninsured. The parties reached a compromise when the county offered to build a 60-bed hospital if legislators would restore state funds it was withholding; the state countered, proposing to build a 125-bed building and fund the $12.5 million difference. But state Legislators ended their business last week without approving new funding for the Baldwin Park Hospital, and the Los Angeles Times reports that "chances of reaching a compromise have dimmed significantly." Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D) said the deal is "still alive, but the patient is in need of resuscitation." State legislators urged hospital supervisors to purchase property, but acknowledged "they could not guarantee funding for construction of the new facility."
Just How Big?
Citing a county medical staff finding, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said an 80-bed hospital was all that was necessary and that anything larger "would be a waste of state money," adding "I'd rather see the [state] money spent on outpatient care and children's health care than on another 20 beds so someone an score a political victory." But Molina was urging her colleagues to approve a 125-bed facility, insisting that if Villaraigosa could not find the money, the hospital could be small. Molina had previously fought for 750 beds in the re-built County-USC hospital. State officials held out for a smaller size, and when no compromise could be reached, Molina proposed the Baldwin Park facility. Villaraigosa envisioned a hospital "more toward 100" beds and said he was "baffled" by the county's refusal to accept a bigger institution even though the state said it had the funding. Hospital Board Chair Don Knabe had yet a different idea, that the county's original offer of a 60-bed facility was "the only offer on the table because it is the only one with a funding mechanism in place" (Riccardi, 9/15).