New York Times Examines Conflicts at King/Drew
The New York Times on Sunday looked at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, which has "fallen so far ... that some doctors, Los Angeles County officials and civil rights lawyers call it a catastrophe of corruption, institutional paralysis and ineptitude." In the past few months, King/Drew and its affiliated medical school, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, have been beset by a "confluence of adverse events," including "accusations of needless deaths, racial tension, poorly trained medical students and incompetent nurses and tens of millions of dollars in medical malpractice settlements," the Times reports. The county in December essentially placed the hospital in receivership and sent a management team to oversee the facility (LeDuff, New York Times, 3/28). Earlier this month, the Department of Health Services officials told hospital leaders that the agency planned to cite the facility for an incident in which the hospital over a period of four days last month mistakenly administered the cancer medication Gleevec to a patient without cancer who was being treated for meningitis. DHS said it would cite King/Drew for delaying care and services, failing to clarify medication errors and lacking oversight of pharmaceutical services. DHS' announcement followed the Board of Pharmacy's prior decision to cite the hospital for the same error (California Healthline, 3/22). The county fired five top officials at the hospital earlier this month (New York Times, 3/28). Two weeks ago, CMS announced that it would not immediately revoke the hospital's certification to participate in Medicare after telling hospital officials that the hospital had until March 23 to change the way it administers drugs to patients in order to retain the $200 million per year it receives from Medicare and Medi-Cal (California Healthline, 3/22). According to the Times, supporters of the hospital, which is the only public facility in south Los Angeles, "are not sitting still." At a rally co-sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality in January, "racial tensions" ran "deep," the Times reports. In a telephone interview, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who led the rally, said, "What we're saying is we're going to watch you. The county only reacts when the spotlight is on them," adding, "They're not going to close that hospital. They need to supervise it." Dr. Ernest Smith, an internal medicine instructor at Drew University, said, "When things go wrong, why do they point fingers at [hospital] administrators," adding, "Maybe the place would operate better if we received our fair share of money." DHS officials say that the hospital receives the highest amount of county funds per patient than any other hospital in the area. John Wallace, a DHS spokesperson, said, "The quality of the administrators isn't there that a hospital needs" (New York Times, 3/28).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.