Vote on Proposal To Close King/Drew Medical Center Trauma Unit To Proceed
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors likely will vote as scheduled on Tuesday on a measure that would close Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center's trauma unit, despite Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke's request that the board postpone action until hospital consultants can recommend reforms, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hayasaki, Los Angeles Times, 9/20). The board last Monday unanimously supported a plan to close the trauma unit and hire outside managers to run the hospital in an effort to address other problems at the hospital.
Under the plan, the trauma unit would close but King/Drew's emergency department would remain open. The trauma unit, which treats patients with life-threatening injuries from incidents such as shootings and car accidents, treats 2,150 patients annually, and the ED treats 45,000 patients annually. The proposal is subject to final approval by the board following a public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. If the proposal is approved, King/Drew's trauma unit would close in about 90 days (California Healthline, 9/14).
On Friday, Burke, who represents King/Drew's district, filed a motion requesting a postponement on the vote. In her statement, Burke said that "closing the trauma center ... may not be the most appropriate response to the problems facing the hospital" and suggested there may be "other clinical areas" that could be closed instead.
Burke spokesperson Glenda Wina said Saturday that Burke supported the initial recommendation to close the trauma unit because county health officials "said that this was the way to save King hospital," which was her "first and foremost concern" (Hymon/Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 9/19). Wina cited community concern over the proposal and concerns that other hospitals would not be able to accommodate additional trauma patients as the main factors driving Burke's decision to file the motion, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 9/20).
Tony Bell, a spokesperson for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said the supervisor is "still committed to the reform package" because there has been "too much loss of life and poor medical care" to further delay plans that are "long since overdue."
Roxane Marquez, spokesperson for Supervisor Gloria Molina, said Molina plans to "move forward as planned," adding that Burke's proposal is "not a possibility."
Joel Bellman, a spokesperson for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, said the supervisor "respects Mrs. Burke and understands her position, but in this matter, he's going to be guided by the body of expert medical opinion," including that of county Department of Health Services Director Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, that led to the proposal.
Supervisor Don Knabe said he understands that Burke is "under intense pressure from the community," adding that he would consider postponing the vote if federal regulators grant the county more time to enact reforms. However, he said he likely will support the proposal to close the unit, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 9/20).
Some county health care officials anticipate a trauma care "crisis" if King/Drew closes its trauma unit, which is the county's second-most-used trauma center, the Times reports. On average, six patients a day would need to be transported to other hospitals if the unit closes. Neighboring hospitals, including Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, St. Francis Medical Center and California Hospital Medical Center, would have to "pick up the slack," which means their trauma caseload could increase by as much as 50%, according to the Times. Hospital officials also are concerned the closure could "flood local hospitals" with patients who mistakenly believe the closure includes King/Drew's ED (Chong/Moore, Los Angeles Times, 9/18).
Local politicians' "objections to any reform, large and small ... have helped bring King/Drew to the miserable place it is in today," and they should "spare the rancor" and offer "honest alternatives" to closing the trauma unit, if any exist, a Times editorial states. The editorial states that what "got lost in the uproar last week is that closing the trauma unit is a last-ditch effort to keep the rest of the hospital ... open." By freeing the hospital to redirect employees from the "labor-intensive trauma unit," the facility can "shore up basic services and keep the rest of the hospital from collapsing," the editorial states (Los Angeles Times, 9/19).
Several broadcast programs reported on JCAHO's vote to begin the process of revoking King/Drew's accreditation:
- KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?": Tracy Weber, public health reporter for the Los Angeles Times, discusses the vote (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 9/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "KPCC News": KPCC's Shirley Jahad interviews Marc Haefele, editor and columnist with the Los Angeles Alternative Press, about King/Drew (Haefele, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The segment includes comments from county Department of Health Services spokesperson John Wallace and Yaroslavsky (Rabe, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/15). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "Talk of the City": Host Kitty Felde interviews Jeff Flick, CMS regional administrator in San Francisco, about how Medicare and Medicaid would be affected by the accreditation loss (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 9/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPCC's "Talk of the City": Felde interviews Los Angeles City Council Member Janice Hahn about the legacy of King/Drew and efforts to keep the hospital open (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 9/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.