Activists take lead roles to reopen Burke’s failed monument
I long ago gave up any hope that Yvonne Burke would be indicted for her failure to stop the dying and maiming that eventually forced King-Drew Medical Center to close in 2007. Every sitting member of the county board of supervisors, who ignored the management problems festering for a decade or more, deserve punishment, too.
To heal their souls, Burke and her accomplices should mark a calendar with the birthdays of those who needlessly died under their bungled leadership. One birthday is coming up. On Feb. 1, Edith Isabel Rodriguez may have turned 45 had the hospital staff heeded her pleas and those of her boyfriend. She writhed in pain on the floor of the ER waiting room for 45 minutes before dying of a ruptured bowel. Let the dozens of birthdays marked on the supervisors’ calendars inspire them to quickly act to reopen the hospital.
One woman already up for the fight to reopen the South L.A. hospital is Sylvia Drew Ivie, the daughter of Charles Drew, the physician for whom the hospital was named. A graduate of Howard University School of Law, Drew Ivie is the chief of staff for County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who replaced the disgraced Burke.
A profile of Drew Ivie, written by a former colleague of mine, Evan George, appears in today’s Daily Journal, a legal newspaper in Los Angeles. (Evan covers healthcare and law better than anyone in town. And yes, his is the first piece written about Drew Ivie by any major media in Los Angeles.)
Drew Ivie worked in the Carter Administration’s U.S. Office for Civil Rights and served briefly as a deputy L.A. city attorney in the 1970s and was most recently the executive director To Help Everyone Clinic in South L.A. She cut back on her time there to lead the community’s losing struggle to keep the hospital open.
Here are a few excerpts from Evan’s story. (Sorry, no link. The paper’s online and print editions are paid-subscription only.)
Her work with the clinic tapered off by 2005, when the largest cloud hanging over South Los Angeles became its once celebrated hospital and the Charles Drew University Medical Center that trained its doctors. As losing federal funding over safety concerns grew likely, Drew Ivie served as project director of the Steering Committee on the Future of the King/Drew Medical Center. The group advised supervisors on how to clean up the hospital’s act.
When the supervisors pulled the plug on the hospital, Drew Ivie said, she was stunned. “We really didn’t think that would be permitted to happen by all of the people who understood how important it was to the community,” she said. She said she blamed failed governance and poor communication between the medical staff and county leaders.
Now, her boss is the one county official most bent on reopening the decrepit facility within two years.
Many in county government have interpreted Drew Ivie’s appointment as a shake-up to try to overcome crippling bureaucratic failures. Last week, Ridley-Thomas also announced his pick of attorney Yolanda Vera as his health deputy. Vera, a longtime health care advocate who helped sue the county over hospital bed cuts years ago, said she has worked closely with Drew Ivie in the past.
Earlier in the story, Evan describes the depth of her motivations:
She also comes to the fight saddled with heavy emotional ties to the issue.
A daughter of the physician for whom the teaching hospital was partially named, she made saving the sinking institution a personal battle and a family obligation. That the hospital finally shuttered within weeks of her losing her own husband to a brain tumor made the tragedy that much more crippling. Friends say the loss brought Drew Ivie to a low point in her life that left her treading water. They also said they had no doubt she eventually would charge back into the fray.
“Sylvia is somebody, unlike some politicians, who actually understands her mistakes and learns from them,” said Stan Price, a former director of the National Health Law Program who has worked with her for decades. “She knows what went wrong and why she wasn’t successful.”
Let’s hope all of the county supervisors are listening to Sylvia Drew Ivie and Yolanda Vera as they reflect on the many darkened days on their birthday calendars.