Fixing the Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center is turning out to be more difficult and costly than Los Angeles County political leaders had anticipated. To make it possible at all, the Board of Supervisors will have to go beyond its $13-million contract with a company that specializes in turning around troubled hospitals. It is going to have to set a realistic goal.
The current model -- an academic research institution made up of a county-owned hospital and a private medical school -- for years has failed as much as served its community. There is no reason to believe it ever will work. How resistant King/Drew is to change was clarified by the revelation in Wednesday's Times that three more patients died last month under how-could-this-happen circumstances.
What makes these deaths particularly discouraging is that they echo errors cited over the last year -- indeed, over the last two decades -- by federal regulators, accreditors, this newspaper and the very consultants who are now running the hospital. King/Drew employees continue to try to conceal mistakes or dodge responsibility for them.
Once again, it took a Times reporter -- not anyone at the hospital -- to inform a grieving daughter that the county coroner had ruled her mother's death a medical accident, attributed to complications from the placement of a breathing tube. The dying patient spent her last four hours complaining about pain where the tube had been inserted.