No Deaths Attributed to Closure of Trauma Center at King/Drew Medical Center
No deaths or cases of serious harm to patients have been attributed to the closure in March of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center's trauma center, Los Angeles County health officials said, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Last fall, some medical professionals and community members said that closing King/Drew's trauma center would lead to an increase in patient deaths because it would take ambulances more time to transport some patients to trauma centers at other hospitals than it would have taken to transport them to King/Drew (Felch, Los Angeles Times, 5/8).
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 23, 2004, voted 4-0 to close the trauma center at King/Drew. The board also voted unanimously to approve an amendment stating that the county hopes to restore trauma services at King/Drew in the future.
Patients are being treated at either California Hospital, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood or Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance (California Healthline, 12/3/04). Prior to its closure, the King/Drew trauma center treated about 1,800 patients annually. Thirteen trauma patients have been treated at the King/Drew emergency department since the trauma center closed.
County officials say the overall number of trauma cases currently is low but likely will increase in the summer.
Mark Eckstein, medical director of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, said, "We may have a false sense of security to say the system can handle it. Right now it's working, but trauma is down and it's a seasonal lull."
Although comprehensive data will not be available until later this year, preliminary reports indicate some transport times have increased by 10 to 15 minutes.
Carol Meyer, director of the county Emergency Medical Services Agency, said trauma patients are still arriving at hospitals within the 30-minute time frame required by the county (Los Angeles Times, 5/8).
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science must make changes, including appointing a permanent president, by Aug. 31 or Los Angeles County will not renew its contract to administer physician training programs at King/Drew next year, county Department of Health Services Director Thomas Garthwaite wrote in a memo to county supervisors on Monday, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Chang, AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/10).
In the memo, Garthwaite said the county would let the contract to train doctors at King/Drew expire in June 2006 if the university does not changes its management of the programs. He also said Drew must fill other staff vacancies expeditiously, as at least 10 medical department heads have been terminated or otherwise left their positions since 2003.
Some supervisors have suggested that the county end its relationship with Drew and contract with a different medical school to administer physician training programs or eliminate such programs at King/Drew and convert the hospital to a nonacademic community hospital (Ward Biederman/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/10).
Drew officials had no comment on the memo Monday. However, King/Drew employees, doctors and residents on Monday rallied against the proposal to end Drew's ties to the hospital.
County supervisors are expected to discuss King/Drew's relationship with the university at a meeting Tuesday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/10).
Also at Tuesday's meeting, supervisors will debate whether to approve $1.8 million in additional funds for turnaround efforts by Navigant Consulting, which the board hired to implement changes at King/Drew.
Navigant Director Kae Robertson said the firm can terminate its contract if supervisors vote against the additional funds and other requested changes to its contract (Los Angeles Times, 5/10).
Los Angeles County's success "in finding other hospitals to treat the critically ill and injured" since the closure of the trauma center at King/Drew "is worth noting" to show "what can be achieved by thorough, level-headed planning," according to a Los Angeles Times editorial. However, "the true test will come this summer," when there is typically an increase in trauma injuries, the editorial states.
"No one expects a hospital as troubled as King/Drew to be turned around easily or quickly," the editorial continues, adding that when hospital staff who "know the hospital is under a microscope allegedly continue to maltreat patients and steal from taxpayers, it's fair to wonder whether it can be fixed at all" (Los Angeles Times, 5/10).