Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

More Trauma at King/Drew

March 18, 2004

Yet another scathing federal review of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center should put to rest any rumors that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is plotting to shut the troubled hospital. On the contrary, the county-owned medical center appears alarmingly capable of doing itself in.

If hospital workers don't fix lapses in the way they dispense drugs by Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is threatening to yank $200 million in funding -- half the hospital's annual budget. The agency set the tight deadline to underscore the severity of the errors uncovered since The Times reported last month that a meningitis patient was mistakenly given a potent anti-cancer drug. Federal inspectors found that nurses and pharmacists committed more than 40 subsequent mistakes -- on the very same patient, from failing to administer medicine to giving extra doses.

The patient survived. With economical understatement, his attorney says of this scandalous mistreatment, "It's a sad thing."

Given this latest litany of horrors atop earlier reports that nurses left patients unattended for hours and lied about patients' conditions, it's tempting to call for closing down King/Drew before it can cause more misery. But to do so assumes that the mostly poor neighborhoods served by the hospital have an alternative. They do not. The really sad thing is that closing the hospital would be a disaster not just for them but for hospitals countywide, public and private, knit together as they are in an already-strained safety net of emergency rooms and trauma centers. King/Drew's busy trauma center handles more gunshot victims than any other in the county.

So the county health department has fired King/Drew administrators, hired an outside firm to manage nursing and drafted top guns from other county hospitals to keep King/Drew open. It is dismaying that, even so, federal inspectors continue to catalog such shocking mistakes. County health officials counter that overhauling the hospital is like remodeling a long-neglected house; they are finding problems they didn't know were there. But they're making changes as fast as they can.

And the county supervisors aren't off the hook. Spurred by horrifying reports they can't ignore, they are at last focused on finding a way to keep King/Drew open. Assuming the hospital makes it through the immediate crisis and the lawsuits that are sure to follow, its long-term survival will depend on the kind of continued attention and commitment the supervisors have never mustered in the past.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|