Some Lawmakers Call for Resignation of Los Angeles County Health Official Over Proposed Closure of Trauma Center at King/Drew Medical Center
Lawmakers who oppose closing the trauma center at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center on Monday called for the resignation of Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Director Thomas Garthwaite, putting "the onus for King/Drew's problems on the man who recommended closing the unit" and "intensifying the political battle over the hospital's future," the Los Angeles Times reports (Chong/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 10/12).
The county Board of Supervisors in September unanimously supported a plan to close the hospital's trauma center and hire outside managers to run the hospital to address other problems. The board later voted 3-1 to pass a measure to hold a public hearing to consider the closure. The vote began the legally mandated process the county must complete to reduce the level of health services at the hospital (California Healthline, 9/30).
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), along with Assembly member Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) and Los Angeles City Council member Bernard Parks, on Monday "attacked" Garthwaite, his second-in-command Fred Leaf and the county board of supervisors for not adequately addressing problems at King/Drew, the Times reports.
Waters said that Garthwaite "has failed. He has let us down," adding, "We call on the incompetent management to resign, to step down. They have violated us."
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who supports the trauma center closure plan, said, "The reason this hospital is in the mess it's in is because of the kind of political reaction we've seen in the last month from political leaders. Medical decisions should not be made for political considerations."
Garthwaite said he does not intend to resign. "My honest opinion is that the reason that the problems at King/Drew are as deep and as difficult as they are is that for many, many years, managers were not empowered to make change there," Garthwaite said. He added, "People other than those in charge resisted change, resisted improvement, went around the managers to politicians, and that set up the kind of situation and culture that's pervasive. And that's why it's so hard to change" (Chong/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 10/12).
At a board meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke said, "With [King/Drew, Garthwaite] has talked about what he will take away, not what he will leave there." She added, "He has not responded to what he sees as the configuration" at King/Drew (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 10/13).
Now that the county board has "finally ... found its backbone" in addressing problems at King/Drew, supervisors "can't weaken" in response to "incendiary comments" by protesters that play on the "hyper-racialized atmosphere" at the hospital, Joe Hicks and David Lehrer of Los Angeles-based Community Advocates write in a Times opinion piece.
Speakers at rallies and in public testimony have threatened that a riot would occur if hospital services were curtailed, and "the overarching theme seems to be that some amorphous 'they' wants to deprive poor black and brown people of the hospital," Hicks and Lehrer write. However, temporarily closing the trauma unit would allow King/Drew to better "focus on its primary functions and, ultimately, turn itself around," according to Hicks and Lehrer (Hicks/Lehrer, Los Angeles Times, 10/12).