LOS ANGELES COUNTY: County-USC Medical Center Debate Heats Up
The fight over how big the replacement structure for the earthquake-damaged County-USC Medical Center should be is "escalating," the Los Angeles Times reports. While four of the five Los Angeles County supervisors voted last November for a 600-bed facility to replace the "gargantuan" hospital, a powerful coalition of "mostly Latino state lawmakers and Latino Caucus members" is threatening to withhold state funds for construction of a smaller facility. Despite pressure for building a larger facility, the county supervisors voted last Tuesday, again 4-1, to go forward with drafting architectural plans for the 600-bed, $818 million replacement. The supervisors also voted to "draw up a plan for a 500-bed facility."
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The Latino coalition -- which includes such "powerful figures" as Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) -- believes a smaller medical center would seriously threaten health care for the residents of Eastside, most of whom are poor and uninsured Latinos. The Times reports that the coalition "has made it clear that if the supervisors don't build the bigger medical center, they won't get about $130 million in critically needed state construction funds to build any size hospital." The coalition wants a facility with a minimum of 750 beds, which the Times reports would cost $1 billion. Supervisor Mike Antonovich said the last thing the county wants is a "Taj Mahal" that it cannot afford to run. "If the state wants a 750- or 800-bed hospital, then let them pay for it," he said. But Supervisor Gloria Molina, who sides with the coalition, said the county "will have to pay for the medical care of the indigent one way or another, and that treating them at a new County-USC is better, and cheaper, than contracting for beds at private, for-profit hospitals" (Meyer, 7/12).