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Hospital worker transfers criticized

Supervisors want faster action on new jobs for the King-Harbor staff.

September 05, 2007|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

An impatient Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors rebuked the county health chief Tuesday, contending that he is moving too slowly to transfer employees from the troubled Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.

Supervisors authorized county officials to send about 500 letters informing workers of their new assignments but questioned what roughly 750 King-Harbor employees have been doing since the hospital closed Aug. 10 after failing a federal inspection.

Although an urgent-care center is still operating 16 hours a day on the site, in addition to about 70 specialty clinics, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the current number of employees is "far in excess" of what is needed. The Department of Health Services has yet to finalize a staffing plan.

Dr. Bruce Chernof, the department's director, told the board that the deliberate process was intended "to make sure that when we move people, we move the vast majority of people to the right place the first time."

County officials have spent weeks combing through hospital personnel files and competency tests to determine which employees would be suitable to fill posts at other county hospitals.

About 100 nonclinical workers have been moved from King-Harbor to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance; about 100 others are on long-term leave, Chernof said.

Supervisor Gloria Molina expressed deep concern that county health officials were dragging their feet in reassigning employees from the Willowbrook hospital.

"It doesn't seem to be treated as seriously as it should be treated," she said. "This feels more chaotic than when [federal inspectors] told us we were a mess," she said.

"We're not taking care of patients. We're not. If nothing else, we should be able to take care of paper," Molina said.

She also wondered how many King-Harbor employees were still showing up for work and demanded more thorough reports from county health officials on how area hospitals are coping with treating former King-Harbor patients.

In the meantime, county health officials have hired consultants to determine the most efficient staffing levels for the King-Harbor urgent-care center and clinics.

But supervisors expressed doubt that the independent consultant, Health Management Associates, was necessary to gather information that they said county health officials should have.

The consultant's report is expected later this month.

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