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Supervisors seek information on expanding County-USC hospital

A proposal to study adding 150 beds at L.A. County's overcrowded flagship hospital could be voted on as early as next week. County staff would have 90 days to report on costs, funding and locations.

July 07, 2010|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

Two Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday introduced a proposal to study the addition of 150 beds to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, the county's overcrowded flagship hospital.

The proposal comes about a week and a half after The Los Angeles Times reported that severe overcrowding was routine at County- USC, which in 2008 moved into a new $1.02-billion facility with 224 fewer beds. In May, the hospital's emergency room was deemed overcrowded about 80% of the time, with conditions considered severe or dangerous for half of that month.

"The right-sizing of L.A. County-USC Medical Center is unfinished business," Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. "This is the flagship trauma center of L.A. County … and every single county resident has something at stake in the viability of L.A. County-USC Medical Center."

In a highly contentious vote in 1997, three of the board's current supervisors — Michael D. Antonovich, Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky — formed part of a board majority that reduced County-USC to a 600-bed hospital, citing concerns about cost. Health department officials and physician and hospital trade groups joined Supervisor Gloria Molina in supporting a 750-bed hospital.

Tuesday's motion asks county staffers within 90 days to estimate costs, identify funding sources and recommend places where an expanded hospital wing or new tower could be located. The motion — essentially a request for information — could be voted on as early as next Tuesday.

Molina said the passage of healthcare reform in Washington earlier this year could decrease demand for county hospital beds as more people get health insurance and have options to seek care at private facilities.

But she added that the county should be prepared to add more beds if overcrowding continues.

Antonovich, a longtime critic of a larger County-USC, questioned who would fund the additional beds.

"The question is how you build additional facilities without money?" Antonovich asked. "You need to have a system in place that guarantees funding for services to be provided."

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