Los Angeles County Might Open New Trauma Center
California Hospital officials on Wednesday announced an agreement with Los Angeles County officials to open a trauma center at the facility that could serve about two-thirds of the 1,800 trauma patients treated annually at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center if King/Drew's trauma unit is closed, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the contract, which requires approval from the county Board of Supervisors, the hospital would receive about $2.9 million in county funds through June to help cover the cost of treating uninsured patients. After June, the county will renegotiate agreements with all trauma centers (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 11/11).
Negotiations between the county and California Hospital began earlier this year. Originally the county sought to open a trauma unit at California Hospital with capacity to treat 660 trauma patients annually, but the potential closure of the King/Drew trauma center led county officials to increase that capacity. Previous negotiations stalled in July, at which time the county had proposed funding up to $1.6 million annually for the trauma center (California Healthline, 10/5).
The board on Monday is expected to vote on whether to close the King/Drew trauma center. The board on Tuesday is expected to vote on whether to approve the new trauma center.
Under the agreement with California Hospital, the county will provide $21,000 per week for the treatment of uninsured trauma patients, a figure equivalent to what other private hospitals receive. The county estimates that about 50% of California Hospital's trauma patients will be uninsured and that about 80% of those patients will qualify for county reimbursement.
California Hospital also will qualify for additional benefits that existing trauma centers do not receive to help ensure that the facility can meet the costs of caring for patients released from the trauma center.
Under the agreement, the five other public hospitals in Los Angeles County through June will have to accept 10 patients each month from California Hospital's trauma center to ease such expenses. If another hospital does not have the capacity to admit the patients, they will remain at California Hospital and the hospital will be compensated from a pool of $420,000 set aside by the county.
Most of the funding for the center comes from Measure B, a property tax approved in 2002 by voters to fund trauma care. California Hospital would be the first trauma center to open since passage of the measure.
County Department of Health Services spokesperson John Wallace would not estimate whether taxpayers would pay more for the care of trauma patients at California Hospital than at King/Drew's unit, the Times reports.
California Hospital spokesperson Katreena Salgado declined to comment on specific aspects of the agreement but said she believed the new center would be operating by Dec. 1. She said, "We're very excited. We're ready. We've been ready for a while."
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "This year has been generally a horrible year for the county health system. This is one of the first pieces of good news that we've had." Yaroslavsky added, "This is something I was hoping would occur when we put Measure B on the ballot. We hoped it would not only stabilize the EMS system in the county and maintain the trauma net, but perhaps we would be able to see" improvements in the trauma system (Los Angeles Times, 11/11).