A top official at the university affiliated with Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center said Thursday that the school had agreed to eliminate all but eight positions on its 23-member board of trustees to help reform the troubled institution.
Dr. Carole Jordan-Harris said the board of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science agreed to the change last week. Once the board has been reduced to eight members, it will begin adding an undetermined number of new trustees.
The action is significant because of the role the private university plays at the county-run King/Drew Medical Center. The hospital is in the midst of its own management changes brought on by failures in patient care.
Los Angeles County pays Drew University $13.8 million a year to run 18 training programs for physicians at the hospital, but has lost accreditation in two of them and faces the loss in a third.
The changes fall short of cuts urged by state Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton). In an April 20 letter, Dymally told Jordan-Harris there was a consensus among black elected officials that the Drew board should dissolve itself, leaving three members to maintain a legal quorum.
Jordan-Harris said she agreed with elected officials that the board needed to diversify and attract members with expertise in nonmedical fields. She said the reduction to eight members would serve much the same purpose as a reduction to three.
She took issue with any suggestion that the board was responding to political pressure. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Carson) had first urged the dissolution of the board at a public meeting in March.
"We started doing this back in October," Jordan-Harris said. "Now all of a sudden you have a whole list of politicians who claim they did it. That is not what happened." She later clarified that no politician had made such a claim to her.
She said the California Endowment, a private health foundation, would help figure out how to eliminate the board seats in a fair and equitable way. She said the cuts would be made by June 26.