The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Closure of trauma center in Los Angeles:
Putting profits above human lives

Sep 27, 2004

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced on September 13 that they would close the trauma unit of the Martin Luther King/Drew hospital near Watts.

The county supervisors say that the trauma center needs to be sacrificed so that money and staff can be diverted to other units to "save the hospital."

There is absolutely no guarantee that the hospital will be "saved." The supervisors played a similar game two years ago when they threatened to close two other trauma centers. Voters then approved a property tax hike, supposedly to keep the facilities open, but that obviously hasn't "saved" the trauma units from being attacked again.

L.A.'s trauma care capacity has already shrunk dramatically. Over the last 20 years, the number of trauma centers in L.A. County has gone from 23 to 13, while the population has been increasing. In a drive to maximize their profits, private hospitals have been simply eliminating services they find "too costly," such as trauma units and emergency rooms.

Instead of trying to close the gap created by these closures, the county has actually widened it by following the example of the private sector. The share of health care spending in the county budget, which was 20% in 1984, is now down to almost 5%. And the supervisors are looking for ways to cut it down even more – targeting "expensive" services such as trauma care.

Trauma centers treat the most severely injured, such as victims of shootings, car crashes and industrial accidents. The King/Drew trauma unit has been treating over 2000 patients a year, the second highest in the county. Even just the extra travel time that will result from the closure of King/Drew will cost many lives, because, in trauma cases, every minute can decide the question of life or death.

Trauma care may be costly, but it literally saves lives. And it's simply not true that we as a society can't afford this vital service. The county supervisors certainly have the money to give to corporations for big projects with huge cost overruns – such as the subway construction that has been going on for decades, to name one example.

No, the money is there; it's just a question of priorities. For the bosses and politicians who run this capitalist system, corporate profits will always come before human lives.