Los Angeles Times Examines King/Drew Medical Center
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday began a five-part series about Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, looking at the hospital's recurring medical lapses, managerial shortcomings and the local political conditions that have stalled effective reform. For the series, Times reporters over the past year conducted hundreds of interviews, studied medical malpractice cases and reviewed records of the hospital and its regulators. Stories from to the series are listed below.
- "Deadly Errors and Politics Betray a Hospital's Promise": The Times reports that King/Drew "is much more dangerous than the public has been told," as demonstrated by a pattern of errors and neglect by hospital staff over the past decade that has resulted in injuries and deaths -- some of which were not reported to authorities "or even to the victims or their families" -- and has made the facility "one of the very worst" in the nation (Weber et al., Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
- "Underfunding Is a Myth, but the Squandering Is Real": The "widely believed" notion that Los Angeles County leaders "have been trying to starve" King/Drew of funds since its opening "is false," with the medical center spending more than 75% of what other public and teaching hospitals in California, according to a 2002 state audit that examined fiscal year 2000, the Times reports. King/Drew, which spends as much as $815 more per patient than the three other Los Angeles County hospitals, "spends inordinate sums on [employees] who do little or no work" and "pays its ranking doctors lavishly," the Times reports (Ornstein et al., Los Angeles Times, 12/6).
Summaries of other articles appear below.
- "An Emergency Unmet": The profile examines the delay in treatment for a patient who, after being transferred to King/Drew while in "unbearable pain" in 2003, waited six hours for pain medication and eight hours for admittance before dying, undiagnosed, of gangrene of the intestine 18 hours after first arriving at the hospital (Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
- "A Delivery Too Late": The profile looks at the case of a patient who in 2002 received a $1.2 million malpractice settlement after the efforts of doctors at King/Drew to deliver her baby caused him to suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen (Hymon , Los Angeles Times, 12/5)
- "A Diagnosis Botched": The profile examines the hospital's efforts to treat an 11-year-old patient who in 1999 had her appendix removed at King/Drew and soon thereafter died from acute pancreatitis (Hymon , Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
- "An Infection Missed": The profile looks at how King/Drew doctors in 1993 misread an infant's spinal tap, causing them to send him home without receiving treatment for a viral infection and causing him to suffer irreversible brain damage (Hymon , Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Upcoming articles in the series will detail the case of one pathologist was hired and remained on staff after misdiagnoses and legal problems; the disarray of departments at King/Drew; and ways in which the county Board of Supervisors has not pursued reform measures while under pressure from community protest and racial politics (Weber et al., Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Although King/Drew was originally supposed to be a symbol of the city's "commitment to right the wrongs that had led to the Watts riots," the hospital now "symbolizes a black community leadership that cares more about symbols than reality and a political establishment that is too afraid of a fuss from local leaders to do what is right for poor and minority patients," a Times editorial states. As "dramatically demonstrated" by the five-part series, King/Drew "is literally killing people" and has become "as much a threat as a boon to the community it is supposed to serve," which the county board would "never let ... happen to patients on the Westside or in the San Fernando Valley," the editorial states.
According to the editorial, while King/Drew has long been "widely acknowledged to be among the worst" hospitals in the nation, local politicians have -- before recent reform efforts -- reacted to reported problems by "accus[ing] an overzealous news media ... of exaggerating run-of-the-mill problems that wouldn't get so much attention in a white-run hospital." The editorial concludes, "As both symbol and reality, [King/Drew] is both separate and unequal -- the very injustice it was supposed to cure. The only form of justice it provides is a parody of justice: the right of black people to die in a black hospital" (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).