Jan 18, 2021
On New Year’s Eve, the corporate owner of Olympia Medical Center, a 204-bed hospital in the heart of Los Angeles, announced it will be completely closing on March 31—that is, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—right as infections and hospitalizations surge to their worst levels nationwide and statewide, and as Los Angeles reports zero percent ICU capacity.
The 74-year-old hospital cares for a very high percentage of elderly and low-income patients. In early January the hospital was so packed with COVID-19 patients, the staff had to convert several non-ICU units to accommodate the overflow. “If we close, it’s going to overwhelm all the surrounding hospitals that are already struggling to care for all these patients,” said Jorge Burruel, an intensive care unit RN at Olympia.
Closing the hospital only makes the pandemic and severe economic downturn worse by destroying both lives and jobs. But for Alecto Healthcare, the owner of Olympia, all that counts is a very big profit from the sale of the site of the hospital.
On top of that, Alecto also pockets tens of millions of dollars in government stimulus money that it already got for running Olympia. While government officials claim that the stimulus money is meant to preserve jobs, in reality, it is little more than a taxpayer-funded giveaway to companies that take the money and cut jobs anyway.
This is no different from what Alecto Healthcare does in other parts of the country. It buys up rural or independent hospitals, makes deep budget cuts and then shuts them down. Only recently it closed three rural hospitals in West Virginia and Ohio near the Ohio River, severely cutting that region’s capacity to treat COVID patients by 530 licensed hospital beds ... even as it pocketed millions in government COVID stimulus money.
No, the biggest threat to working peoples’ lives and livelihoods in this pandemic is not the coronavirus, but the virus of capitalism.