Los Angeles County Supervisor Files Motion To Terminate Contract with Drew University
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich on Wednesday filed a motion calling for the county Department of Health Services to end its contract with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and contract with another medical school to administer physician-training programs at Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The move comes after county officials this week notified the university that it would be penalized $21,000 for failing to comply with some requirements in its contract, which it renewed in September 2004 (Weber/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 4/7).
The contract was renegotiated for 21 months, instead of the usual five years. The county also detailed sanctions for noncompliance with the provisions of the contract.
County health officials last week said that the university has not met a deadline for submitting required information about its physician-training programs, three of which had lost accreditation prior to the contract's renewal (California Healthline, 3/29).
In the motion, Antonovich said that the University was more concerned with renegotiating its contract than with "fixing the medical school and resident oversight problems."
The motion states, "Given the stakes involved and recent patients deaths involving lapses in medical care ... it has become evident that this board can no longer support a hospital that does not meet the community standard of care."
Antonovich suggested that the county, which owns the medical center, contract with another university, such as the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Southern California or Loma Linda University.
Supervisors will consider the motion on Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 4/7).
Drew University Interim President Harry Douglas on Wednesday said that he was "dumbfounded" by the motion. He added, "We thought we were proving ourselves as a capable and reliable partner."
Also this week Navigant Consulting -- which the county hired to address ongoing patient care issues at King/Drew -- released a preliminary review that found that three patients who died at the hospital late last month had received medical care that "did not meet the community standard," according to county officials (Chang, AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/6).
A county coroner's report ruled that the death of one of the patients was a medical accident. The report attributed the death to complications from the placement of the patient's breathing tube, which caused her lung to collapse.
The patient's death and "at least one other" indicate that doctor trainees at the hospital did not receive appropriate oversight from senior physicians, according to DHS officials, the Times reports.
Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said she does not support ending the contract with the university or closing the hospital. She said, "They have had some things that are wrong, that should be corrected and that must be corrected. I believe you have to maintain a hospital there and do whatever it takes to provide for the care of people there."
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the board discussed the recent deaths on Tuesday in a closed session and were "very, very concerned about the pace of reform." He said, "If it's going to take forever, then maybe we need to revisit the first decision we made about how to approach this problem."
DHS Director Thomas Garthwaite on Wednesday "depart[ed] from his previous support" for the school, the Times reports. He said, "There should be consequences and accountability for not supervising adequately."
Supervisor Don Knabe said, "I want to do everything I can to save the hospital, but we can't continue to deal with issues like this. Every time you turn around things appear to be getting better ... and then dramatic issues like this turn up. I think everyone has really reached the height of frustration. I'm not really sure, at least from my perspective, what the next step should be" (Los Angeles Times, 4/7).
KPCC's "Talk of the City" on Wednesday reported on the lapses in medical care at King/Drew Medical Center. The segment includes comments from Los Angeles Times reporter Charles Ornstein, Kae Robertson, managing director of Navigant Consulting and supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 4/6.) 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.