Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Reduces Trauma Patient Volume at King/Drew Medical Center
The annual patient load in Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center's trauma unit will be reduced by 18%, or by about 500 patients, beginning Feb. 16, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials announced Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports. The change, which involves redrawing the geographic limits of King/Drew's service area, is intended to allow the hospital a chance to address other patient care issues. King/Drew's trauma unit, which is the second busiest in the county, currently treats more than 2,700 patients annually and handles the highest number of gunshot victims in the county. According to the Times, the redistricting will mean that "some trauma victims will face longer ambulance rides," while other area hospitals, including Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, "will have to take in more patients."
County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said she considered the reduction of trauma care volume to be part of an effort to improve care, rather than a punitive measure. Fred Leaf, chief operating officer for the county DHS, said, "The problems cited clearly require some significant corrective action, so we want to make certain that there isn't a patient load that would present or create an environment where patients are unsafe." Thomas Yoshikawa, the chief of internal medicine at the hospital, said, "I think ... for us to take less trauma cases is probably good," adding that "we don't have enough funding to take care of all the patients, and that's an issue." Mike Metro, a battalion chief of emergency services for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said that transport times likely would not be increased as a result of the move, adding, "The benefit will be to get a patient to a trauma center that can handle them" (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 2/7).
In related news, KPCC's "Air Talk" Thursday interviewed Daniel Higgins, an emergency department physician at St. Francis Medical Center, and Dr. William Koenig of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency about the current conditions of emergency departments and trauma centers in the state (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 2/5). 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.