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Waters Vows to Fight for Hospital

Congresswoman to rally residents of South L.A. in effort to save trauma unit at King/Drew.

September 26, 2004|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

Rep. Maxine Waters vowed Saturday to get thousands of residents of South Los Angeles and the surrounding communities involved in stopping the proposed closure of the trauma unit at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

Speaking to about 150 community activists, residents and hospital employees at the Grant AME Church in Watts, Waters (D-Los Angeles) said she planned to collect "thousands upon thousands" of signatures to present to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

She also said she intended to bring busloads of residents to a yet-to-be-scheduled protest in downtown Los Angeles over the supervisors' proposed action, and that she hoped to have enough people to completely encircle the County Hall of Administration.

The purpose, said Waters, was to show that "we're not going away, and that we're going to fight for King, and we're going to fight for the trauma center and we're going to fight for the services that the community deserves."

Supervisors decided Tuesday to hold a public hearing to consider the closure of the trauma unit at the Willowbrook hospital, which is owned by the county and serves mostly minority residents.

Numerous inspectors have identified serious problems with patient care at King/Drew over the last year. County health officials have said that shuttering the trauma unit would allow them to use resources needed to fix other parts of the hospital.

Waters said that her office was committed to fixing whatever problems existed at King/Drew.

During her talk, she criticized The Times for what she said was its overemphasis on reporting medical errors at King/Drew and the unflattering findings of inspectors. In addition, she said that her office was trying to gather reports on medical errors that have occurred at other Los Angeles County hospitals and has learned that King/Drew was not alone in making mistakes.

"The L.A. Times has not been as judicious in reporting on some of those mistakes" at other hospitals, Waters said. "Perhaps they don't know that they exist."

Waters urged community members to organize before the public hearings, which are likely to occur in the next two months.

She said that other efforts to rally the community would involve setting up phone banks to help spread the word about the proposed closure and using area churches to network.

Howard Ransom Jr., 50, an adult-education teacher from Watts, said he was hopeful that the community would take action to help keep King/Drew's trauma unit open.

"What I'm worried about is that this hospital is being singled out when it's the most needed," Ransom said. "If there are problems, then let's address them. But you can't show me a government agency that's doing 100% of what they should be."

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