Already beset by operational problems, Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center will need nearly $64 million to repair its deteriorating facility, including pipes leaking water and waste, according to Los Angeles County officials.
Most of the money would be used to replace the public hospital's utility infrastructure, including pipes, air ducts and air-handling systems. Also, King/Drew's six operating rooms and psychiatric units would be refurbished over the next two years.
Officials told the county Board of Supervisors that the repairs are urgently needed if the hospital is to regain its national accreditation and retain federal funding, which accounts for more than half its budget.
King/Drew lost its national approval earlier this year because of patient-care lapses identified during a 2004 review.
The $63.8-million request, which was submitted to the supervisors last week, comes on top of millions being spent to hire additional staff at the troubled hospital and $15 million more being paid to consultants hired to correct the hospital's shortcomings.
At a budget meeting Monday, the supervisors agreed to set aside some of the money for the repairs but delayed approval of individual projects for a couple of months. Some supervisors have said they want to wait until it is clear that King/Drew will remain open.
Officials said many of the problems at King/Drew can be traced to inadequate upkeep at the facility. Even so, the extent of King/Drew's problems appears to be greater than other county facilities that delayed repairs because of budget constraints, said Jan Takata, an assistant division chief in the county's chief administrative office.
With proper maintenance, Takata said, the hospital's pipes should have lasted 50 to 100 years. King/Drew, at 33 years old, is the newest of the county's four acute-care hospitals.
It is difficult to compare King/Drew with the other public hospitals because they are different ages, health department officials said.
The county is spending roughly $825 million to rebuild its flagship County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights and $125 million to build a new emergency department and operating suites at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Both are decades older than King/Drew.
Pat Miller, health deputy for Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, said King/Drew needs to be repaired regardless of why its problems developed.
"I don't know that you don't repair it based on the cause," she said.