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Los Angeles

Group Fighting to Save Hospital

Health care: State orders owner of Daniel Freeman in Marina del Rey to prove it is fulfilling agreements to serve the community.

June 28, 2002|NERISSA PACIO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a last-ditch effort to save the nonprofit Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, a coalition of community and labor groups asked the state attorney general to stop the hospital's closure while his office investigates whether Tenet Healthcare Corp., which owns the facility, has violated its commitments.

Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer gave Tenet until today to provide documents that prove the company has complied with the conditions it agreed to when it purchased the Marina del Rey hospital in December, a spokesman for the attorney general said.

The coalition says the hospital is an essential neighborhood resource and that Tenet has not lived up to its commitments.

It says Tenet agreed in December that by now the company would have established a local governing board to oversee continued care of patients.

The agreement also included maintaining a nearby urgent-care facility, providing free transportation to surrounding medical centers and establishing an outreach program to let residents know about their options after the hospital closes.

"If I have a heart attack, where will I go?" asked the president of the Vista Del Mar Network, Julie Inouye, whose husband is a physician at the hospital.

"Doctors are being displaced. Patients are being displaced. This is about our region right now.... It's about life and death."

Company officials say Tenet will have those services in place before the hospital closes in August.

"We are under no obligation to have these services prior to the closure," said Harris Koenig, chief executive officer of Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital.

The hospital has consulted community physicians and health-care organizations in the area to find out the community's needs, and urgent care and transportation to nearby hospitals will be provided closer to the time of the hospital's closure, Koenig said.

Tenet has also signed a letter of intent with the county to upgrade the Tenet-owned Centinela Hospital near Los Angeles International Airport to a high-end urgent-care center with basic life support services, said Tenet spokesman David Langness.

The hospital's psychiatric and chemical dependency unit has closed. Medical staff refer those patients to Tenet's Brotman Medical Center in Culver City. The Marina hospital emergency room is to close at the end of next month, Koenig said.

Tenet also owns Daniel Freeman Memorial in Inglewood, which will remain open. The Marina hospital's closure will be the second hospital shut by Tenet in Los Angeles County this year.

The hospital planned to launch a public awareness campaign this week notifying residents of nearby medical facilities and how to get to those places, Koenig said. Some residents think that's not enough.

"Demographically, we are a graying neighborhood," said Terry Conner, president of the Villa Marina Council. "The other Tenet properties are 13 to 19 minutes away.... Time is of significance."

The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Commission will hold a public hearing July 17 on the closure of the hospital, which community members said serves many low-income residents of Venice and the Marina.

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