Protesters Rally at Hearing on Proposed Closure of King/Drew Medical Center Trauma Unit
About 1,000 people on Monday rallied outside Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center to protest the proposed closure of the hospital's trauma unit prior to a state-mandated public hearing of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on the issue, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports.
According to the AP/Times, "at least one" supervisor said that the hearing was a formality and that the board already had made the decision to close the King/Drew trauma unit. A formal decision can be made no earlier than Nov. 23.
Thomas Garthwaite, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, told protesters that the hospital itself would not close and that the proposed closure of the trauma unit was intended to address problems within the hospital, not reduce costs.
Fred Hyde -- a consultant for Service Employees International Union Local 660, which represents hospital workers -- said that the trauma unit's closure would cause the hospitals most-skilled doctors and nurses to leave. He compared closing the trauma unit to detonating a neutron bomb, saying, "The building will still be there but the people will not" (Chavez, AP/Contra Costa Times, 11/16).
Regulators repeatedly have cited King/Drew for patient care problems, and in September, the board proposed closing the trauma center and hiring outside managers to operate the hospital. The King/Drew trauma center, which provides care for patients with life-threatening injuries, treats about 2,150 patients annually, and the hospital emergency department treats 45,000 patients annually (California Healthline, 11/15).
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who attended the rally, said, "People here are so emotional because they feel threatened. People are scared."
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said, "This is a serious issue that runs very deep, a lot deeper than you know. I'm begging of you, don't ignore this. Don't marginalize this. We want our trauma center kept open."
However, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that quality of care at King/Drew should not be superseded by political arguments, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Is anybody here -- is anybody -- concerned about the quality of care at this hospital?" he asked (Landsberg et al., Los Angeles Times, 11/16).
KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" on Monday included an interview with Joe Hicks -- vice president of Community Advocates, a privately funded human rights organization in Los Angeles -- about the proposed closure of the trauma unit (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 11/15). 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.