Los Angeles County Supervisor Calls for Proposal for Independent Health Authority
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe on Tuesday asked county officials to propose a "workable plan" for an independent board of health experts that would oversee all county hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports. Knabe's request is consistent with recommendations cited in a preliminary report released Monday that details problems with patient care at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
Navigant Consulting, the firm that since November has operated King/Drew under a one-year contract, released the report, which includes more than 1,000 recommendations for improvements at the hospital.
Among other recommendations, the report suggests the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors no longer be responsible for oversight of the county's public hospitals and that a board of health care experts "independent of historical political interference" be created to oversee King/Drew. The report recommended that the county eventually establish an authority to run all Los Angeles County hospitals.
Knabe asked county officials to propose nominees for a new health authority and define the amount of control they could assert over county health budgets. Knabe said he would support the creation of the board if it would have complete control of county hospital funding.
Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke have indicated "lukewarm support" for such an authority, according to the Times. Supervisor Mike Antonovich opposes the idea. According to the Times, the creation of an independent board is likely to be approved next week.
The board has twice rejected similar proposals for an independent health authority. In December 1995, Yaroslavsky was the sole supporter of the initiative. In 2002, a blue-ribbon commission appointed by supervisors proposed a similar authority; however, the suggestion was defeated "because the health department was dealing with a financial crisis," according to Los Angeles County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen.
Los Angeles County Medical Association President Daniel Higgins called the proposal a "great idea." He said, "There's so much politics -- unfortunately -- that (county supervisors) have to deal with, that it's hard to get things done."
Janssen questioned the idea, asking, "Can we afford a one- to two-year diversion of the organization ... to look into an alternative structure, when the financial collapse of the department is just around the corner?" (Leonard/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 1/5).
KPCC's "Air Talk" on Tuesday included a discussion about the report. Guests on the program included County DHS Director Thomas Garthwaite; KPCC reporter John Rabe; and Kae Robertson, managing director of the health care practice at Navigant (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 1/4). 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.