Out of Control Policy Blog

LA might outsource troubled hospital

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may hand over Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center to a private company after nearly two years of failed attempts to correct patient care lapses and mismanagement at the beleaguered public hospital.

    County supervisors, who ordered a study of the idea last month, now are giving it new urgency after yet another federal government inspection found medical errors, misconduct and a troubling death at the 33-year-old hospital south of Watts. A vote could take place as early as August, and at least three of the five supervisors – Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky – express some support for the idea.

Sadly, examples like these are rather common at King/Drew:

    In the latest inspection, which was completed Friday, federal officials cited several major medical errors, including a patient who waited to be seen in King/Drew's emergency room for more than 13 hours in January without a medical screening. He later died of a dissecting aneurysm – a tear in a weakened blood vessel.

    The aneurysm had been visible on an X-ray taken by King/Drew staff two years ago, but it was never diagnosed by them, according to a memo to supervisors from Fred Leaf, the health department's chief operating officer.

    The Times obtained a copy of the memo.

    The inspectors also faulted two nurses who gave a narcotic by epidural to a 9-month-old baby. Not only were the nurses not allowed to perform such a procedure, which is typically performed by an anesthesiologist or specially trained nurse, but they never obtained consent to do it and falsified patient records, Leaf's memo said.

    The nurses were removed in May. The hospital's pediatric intensive care unit was closed after the incident because King/Drew could not find other qualified nurses to step in, health department officials said.

    In addition, the inspectors found there were "still too many pharmacy errors and too many cases of drugs being administered late," Leaf's memo said. Those same problems have been noted in several previous reports from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Whole story is here.

For more on the troubles at King/Drew, go here.

And for more on why more public hospitals are turning private, see this recent Privatization Watch cover story.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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