Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Medical-care triage

Funds for King-Harbor should remain in the Southland to prop up hospitals dealing with the overflow.

September 24, 2007

The closure of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital's emergency room means that millions of dollars in state funds spent directly on healthcare in South Los Angeles could be snapped up by hospitals in other parts of California. Residents, through no fault of their own, would be hit twice -- first, by the county's inability to keep their hospital operating competently, and now, by the diversion of more than $100 million in healthcare funding.

Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) and several of their colleagues have responded with a measure to keep the money working for patients here. Senate Bill 474 would create a South Los Angeles Medical Services Preservation Fund to direct money to the hospitals, from Downey to Torrance and points beyond, that now treat patients who formerly would have gone to King-Harbor. The fund would be last for three years.

Without the money, King-Harbor's failure could prove contagious. Medical centers plan their operations based on a predictable stream of privately insured, Medi-Cal-backed and uninsured patients, and the influx from King-Harbor's service area threatens to upset the balance, further destabilizing an already shaky medical-care network. It makes sense to help patients by helping the hospitals that treat them. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should sign SB 474.

But that's the easy part. No one -- the governor, the Legislature, the Board of Supervisors, county residents -- should be deceived into believing that this funding bill meets the challenge of healthcare in Los Angeles. It simply diminishes the scope of the crisis, and by only a small slice. The supervisors already promised to provide this money; the bill simply means the county can keep that commitment.

Residents of South Los Angeles have long deserved better healthcare services than those delivered by King-Harbor. SB 474 cannot give it to them. It pays for no new clinics to deal with chronic health disasters such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. It does not restore the renowned trauma center that once was the pride of the former King-Drew, before poor hospital management led to its closure and, finally, closure of the emergency room.

The cruel irony is that when King-Harbor operated, funding was comparatively generous, although patients seldom got the benefit of it. Now even funding threatens to disappear. Elected officials and policymakers should look for more opportunities, beyond SB 474, to get medical resources to South Los Angeles residents.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|