Los Angeles Times Questions Politics Behind Proposed Plan to Study Expansions at Three Hospitals
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' recent decision to "draw up plans" to expand Harbor-UCLA Medical Center's emergency department and study expansions at two other county hospitals is a "blatant example of politics dictating health care policy," according to a Los Angeles Times editorial. The editorial points out that although county Supervisors Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Don Knabe have lobbied "for years" to expand Harbor-UCLA, which "straddles" their districts, Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky signed onto the plan only after Burke and Knabe agreed to study expansions at High Desert Hospital and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. The two facilities are in Antonovich's and Yaroslavsky's districts. Although "it's a safe bet that all these hospitals could fill expanded facilities," the hospitals would require "money to pay for the additional patients," funds that the county cannot provide, the editorial says. The county health system faces a nearly $1 billion deficit by 2005. The editorial suggests that the county Board of Supervisors establish a "semi-independent agency" to administer the county's health care system. Such a move would "allow policy decisions to be made and scarce funds to be allotted based on a countywide assessment of needs, not on an individual supervisor's ambitions." The editorial adds that the county "health care system is at best too complex and at worst too broke to be used to gain points from constituents or settle scores against colleagues." The editorial concludes, "Politics aside, a commission whose members had expertise in health care and whose single purpose was to make the health department work surely would offer better oversight than a Board of Supervisors that oversees more than 30 other departments" (Los Angeles Times, 12/6).