Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday authorized health officials to negotiate nearly $100 million in contracts to help overhaul Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center during the hospital's downsizing, including up to $85 million to subsidize as many as 90 beds for county patients at nearby private hospitals.
King/Drew, near Watts, is shifting specialty medical services and hospital management to Harbor/UCLA Medical Center near Torrance. The plan to drastically reduce King/Drew's scope came after the hospital failed a critical federal inspection earlier this year, jeopardizing $200 million in federal funding. The new, smaller facility will be renamed Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.
The health department also plans to spend $6 million over three years for emergency physicians to replace medical residents, who are scheduled to work their last day at King/Drew on Friday; $3 million over the next year on doctors who admit and monitor patients at MLK-Harbor; $1 million on ambulance services over the next year, and $210,000 to transport patients and families from MLK-Harbor to Harbor/UCLA.
The $85 million in private bed space will help ease the transition as MLK-Harbor, which averages 153 inpatients a day, shrinks to 42 beds and later expands to 114, said county health chief Dr. Bruce Chernof. The competitively bid agreements must be approved by county health executives, county attorneys and the chief administrative officer. Supervisors will authorize future contract changes.
Federal regulators threatened to strip the hospital of financial support this fall but have extended King/Drew's deadline to improve patient care and will continue funding until March 31. County health officials last week received a formal letter confirming the cut-off date.
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science also decided to end its program for about 250 resident physicians at King/Drew on Friday after losing its accreditation and county backing.
Admissions to King/Drew's neonatal intensive care, pediatrics and high-risk obstetrics units stopped Nov. 20, and fewer than 10 remaining patients were transferred to Harbor-UCLA, Chernof said. About 30 beds are scheduled to open at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey on Dec. 15, health officials said.
The board requested a report back on the contracts Dec. 19.