The future of what was once called Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center is again under debate. What cannot be denied is the failure of its most recent iteration, known as King-Harbor Hospital, nor the vacuum its closure has created in the community it was designed to serve.
The people of South L.A. need a full-service hospital. Indeed, the people of the entire county need that hospital. For one thing, the closure of the emergency room at King-Harbor has already flooded emergency rooms in surrounding communities with more patients, more paramedic transports and more admissions. This means longer waits to receive emergency care, more risk that the quality of care will be compromised and a greater likelihood that more private hospitals will be forced to downgrade their emergency rooms or even close their doors completely.
The best way to reopen a publicly supported institution with a minimum of obstacles is to call on another public institution to take its place. In this regard, the University of California health system is just what the doctor ordered. The UC system has the infrastructure, expertise and vision to take over the full operation of King-Harbor and make it part of its affiliated hospitals.
There are precedents for this. In Sacramento County, the UC Davis School of Medicine operates the former county facility. In Orange County and in San Diego County, the University of California is similarly involved, operating, respectively, the UC Irvine Medical Center and the UC San Diego Medical Center. In Los Angeles, UCLA runs its own medical center successfully and is already involved in the management of Olive View-UCLA and Harbor-UCLA.
Rich or poor, the people of South Los Angeles deserve the best of care -- and the UC presence would make sure of that. In so doing, we would make the hospital worthy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who always gave his very best on behalf of all Americans and who would expect nothing less from an institution that bears his name.