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Debate Over County Hospital

March 16, 1997

* Re "Molina Splits With Board Colleagues on County-USC," March 8:. The issue of rebuilding Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center is rooted in the facility's age, its structural deterioration and its seismic needs. It's also based on the county's ongoing fiscal crisis, and part of the larger debate over the public sector's role in health care and how best to deliver that care to the people who need it.

Not a one of the 750-bed hospital supporters depicted in your article disputes the need to decentralize and downsize the overall county health system. That must be accomplished not only to meet federal mandates but also to save money and provide quality care. But these goals are not inconsistent with having a first-rate medical center that provides the entire county with services simply unavailable elsewhere.

This issue is not about the parochial interests of any one elected official's constituents. It's about trauma patients in an emergency room that is the flagship for the county 911 system, AIDS patients in the county's largest AIDS treatment ward and burn victims in the region's finest burn facility. Many Westside and Valley emergency heart attack and traffic accident victims are brought to County-USC by ambulance because other hospitals refuse to treat emergency trauma patients. Those of us whose constituents are served by the medical center join USC Medical School's Dr. Robert Tranquada and County Health Department Director Mark Finucane in supporting a 750-bed hospital that is big enough to do the job for the entire county.

Perhaps our critics should cool the angry rhetoric, stop the race-baiting and roll up their sleeves in the search for a solution that serves more than narrow political interests.

ANTONIO R. VILLARAIGOSA

Assembly Majority Leader

D-Los Angeles

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