Government Health Care Los Angeles History

A Prescription for County Supervisors UPDATE***

You gotta wonder how much L.A. County supervisors really want to save Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, formerly known as King-Drew. Next month federal inspectors could very likely shut down the horror house, where substandard care has killed and maimed dozens of people over the years. Here are three steps supervisors could take today if they really care about the hospital and serving the thousands of consitutents who, for better and often worse, depend on it.

–Convene their regular meetings in one of the hospital’s now vacant wings. This not only will boost the supervisors’ goodwill in the community, but will offer up-close views of their efforts to improve care.

–Order all hospital employees who are holdovers from the old, killer regime to wear black armbands. Not only will this make them visible to supervisors, who claimed to be surprised this week by the lack of progress on-site adminstrators have made replacing them, but it will show the public who they need to stay away from.

–Cancel the supervisors’ health insurance plans and require them to see doctors at King-Harbor for all of their medical needs.

*** The Father’s Day celebration that almost didn’t happen. Read Celeste Fremon’s latest story in the L.A. Weekly on the emergency-room saga of Juan Ponce.


  • Truthfully, I hope there is no hope for this hospital to survive. Amongst the finger pointing, solemn words, vows to reform, audits on audits, and inspections on inspections, it no longer much matters if the problem is the unwillingness of the administrators/professionals/staff to improve, or their inability to improve. MLK-Harbor’s open doors, even in its stripped bare condition, is a form of false promise, not too far off trickery. It offers the illusion of competent care where little competence has been demonstrated. In its current state, it’s simply a lie.

  • King Drew could advertise that they are giving away free TV’s to get people to their meeting, and, when the community finds that is not true, they will riot, steal the TV’s from patient rooms, and burn down the hospital.

  • Probably will end up closed and that’s a shame in a way. There’s no doubt that the area need a hospital and I find it a scandal that a decent one couldn’t be provided.

  • “Cancel the (county) supervisors’ health insurance plans” Alan, I am starting to like your evil thoughts, but, I am not sure it would help unless your aim is just to knock off our county supervisors.

    The solution is very simple – fire everyone with no option for re-hire.

  • That is the solution Pokey, but I’m not sure it’s legal, is it? I admit I am fully unfamiliar with California’s labor laws. And, I don’t know the terms under which these employees work; ie, are they county employees, or civil servants? Still, I wonder – union, no union, or whatever – whether previous employment at MLK-H would be a defensible argument for not re-hring. If it couldn’t be challenged successfully in court if the employee could produce evidence of ‘standard/acceptable’ perfomrnace evaluations? And, I can imagine circumstances where even the worst of them might be able to.

  • Well, maybe Bloomberg has the right idea with his “healthy lifestyle payments for the POOR”. And with all the wrongfull death suits, it would probably be a net savings to the tax payer.

    We could give bonus’s for things that the Drew/King staff do right:
    – wash their hands before surgery = $5; $10 dollars for each patient who lives and does not sue…

  • From the LA Times this morning I see that the state has made it’s first move to begin the process of closing MLK-Harbor. Looks like it’ll be a slow, inexorable ride to the end. No one interviewed sounded optimistic. It does sound as though those in charge were worried about the kinds of personnel actions that could prompt charges of racial discrimination. It’s times like this when I think affirmative action and/or the laws to protect against discriminatory employment practices outflanks what might be best for the community. I expect the process of closure – if it comes to that – will be nothing less than rancorous.

  • Listener beat me to it but I have to say that this should be a wake up call for everyone in LA County about just how poorly an entity of over ten million people is governed. I know that Prop 13 shifted much of the revenue raising ability to Sacramento while leaving the Counties with the responsibilities for things like Health but I cannot see this as anything other than a complete abdication of the board’s duty and racist at that. Yes racist in that the three whites, one latina, and one black just didn’t give a damn about the situation there. I know community “Activists” saw any criticism of the (largely) minority staff there as “Disrespecting” their community but you’d think that they would have a stake in seeing that place saved lives. Instead they made ethnic politics a joke. And in the process made it look like Charles Murray and his ilk were right. Why? Because the Board went along. They didn’t put their foot down. After all the clientel were poor blacks and latinos, many of whom probably short of papers. And I bet any auto accidents on the Harbor saw the white patients go to Downey or St Vincents or those other places on the map. Funny, you don’t hear of this at Fisk or Howard Medical Centers in Washington or Nashville. But we’ll settle for second best. And a promise to fix it in 2004? Yeah that really worked!

    And the sad thing is the crooks and cronies and apologists for the Western World’s worst health care delivery system will use this as more evidence that only the “Market” can provide decent health care – all evidence to the contrary.

    Hell of a job all around!

  • I wonder… If MLK-Harbor does lose its accredidation, and the state choses to close it, whether another ‘private’ group couldn’t purchase the facility. While the new purchaser might be obliged to interview previous MLK-H employees, it would be under no obligation to hire them from a broader applicant pool. No charges of discrimination could be filed if the hiring committee decided there were more qualified applicants to be had… And, the hiring criteria could be organized such that anyone who had worked at MLK-H for the last few years would be unlikely to meet them (one year’s private medical sector experience in the last three years might be enough). One thing is clear, the LA County Supervisors can’t be entrusted with the next effort, if there is one.

  • So, as it would turn out, it does appear that a possible sale of the facility is one idea in the possible contingency plan. When I read that the current employees at MLK-Harbor had bumping rights into other county facilities, I knew all I needed to know about how/why MLK-H managed to drift to the bottom like it did. Civil servants do need protection from political shifts in the wind. But those protections are a double edged sword. It also protects lackluster employees from “capricious” dismissal. There are procedures for dealing with employees whose performance is sub-standard, but they tend to be clumsy instruments to weild, and cumbersome to implement. It will be unfortunate, but also inevitable, that some mediocre-at-best employees from MLK-H will replace more competent (and, possibly more qualified) employees elsewhere. In the jargon of large school districts, it’ll be a ‘waltz of the lemons.’

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