The Spark

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

Los Angeles public hospitals:
The corporate hit men have arrived

Oct 25, 2004

The Los Angeles County government brought in a private consulting company called Navigant Consulting to take over, manage and restructure Martin Luther King Medical Center, the large public hospital complex in South Central Los Angeles.

If L.A. County officials were really so interested in "cutting costs," then why pay Navigant such a shockingly high fee: 13.25 million dollars for the services of about 20 consultants over the period of a year? (A Los Angeles Times editorial called the consultants' fee "eyepopping.") If delivering health care more efficiently were really everyone's goal, then why not spend all that money on a lot more staff and resources at the hospital, where it is so badly needed?

And if delivering better health care to the community and straightening out the public health care system were really their goal, then why have they been slashing it, strangling and throttling it for so long? Only two years ago, the county closed 11 community clinics, reduced the number of inpatient beds in all five L.A. county hospitals and cut thousands of jobs. And they are now about to close the trauma center at Martin Luther King hospital, which also happens to be the second largest trauma center in the county. Of course, nothing disorganizes and disrupts health care more than forcing the millions of patients county-wide who have little or no health coverage into a smaller and smaller public health system.

No, the county officials are not interested in delivering better public health, but cutting it, and Navigant is just one of many consulting companies that help businesses and government do that kind of thing. Last year, Navigant recommended cutting 475 jobs at the UCLA medical center. In 1999, Navigant recommended that the hospital at the University of California at San Francisco cut medical services and staff.

The people primarily responsible for the sometimes abysmal and chaotic kind of health care are the very officials and big shots who are using these conditions as the excuse to bring a bunch of corporate hit men to cut it even more.