Los Angeles County DHS Delays Plans To Downgrade Neonatal Unit at King/Drew Medical Center
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials said Thursday that they are delaying plans to downgrade the neonatal intensive care unit at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center because they need more time to study the possible effects of the move, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/27). In April and January this year, county DHS officials recommended downgrading King/Drew's NICU from a regional care unit to an immediate care unit, which would restrict the facility's services for newborns in intensive care and infants who need ventilators to breathe for more than four hours. The proposed downgrade was set for July. Under the proposal, infant patients who are severely ill will be transferred to County-USC Medical Center or Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The proposal is part of a countywide plan to save money and consolidate services. The neonatal unit at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center also would be downgraded to an intermediate unit (California Healthline, 4/14). The delay also would affect Olive View-UCLA (Los Angeles Times, 5/27).
Officials said that they need to examine how to safely transport critically ill newborn infants to other hospitals and how to deal with high-risk pregnancies. Dr. Jeffrey Guterman, the county's medical director for clinical resource management, said, "Clearly there is a lot of political pressure." However, he predicted that after the study is completed, the department will keep its initial plan (AP/Fresno Bee, 5/27). Dr. Xylina Bean, chief of neonatology at King/Drew, said she is pleased with the decision, adding that downsizing the neonatal unit does not make sense because of the high rates of mortality, low-birthweight and prematurity among infants in the hospital's service area. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said that a recent report raised questions about whether the proposed consolidation of neonatal services would save money and that she is not sure that she supports the measure to reduce services at King/Drew, the Times reports. A decision on downsizing the neonatal units could be made this fall, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 5/27).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.