Aug 15, 2005
Los Angeles County officials talk a lot about "saving" the King/Drew hospital near Watts these days – while they are busy dismantling it piece by piece!
Now the county health director Thomas Garthwaite is proposing to close King/Drew's obstetrics, neonatal and pediatrics wards – those parts of the hospital that provide birth and children's services.
The excuses are the usual ones – that the hospital is running over budget, and that the number of patients treated in these wards has dropped recently.
Running over budget? What a surprise, given that Garthwaite himself, with the backing of the county supervisors, handed a 15-million-dollar contract to an outside consulting firm last year to "oversee" the hospital – in addition to all the other juicy deals awarded to countless "consultants" and contractors!
Number of patients going down? Another big surprise, given the horror stories about the lack of quality of care at King/Drew, given the endless articles in the Los Angeles Times about how King/Drew kills patients!
There is no doubt that the quality of care needs to improve at King/Drew. But is that really what Garthwaite and the supervisors are worried about? If so, why did they close King/Drew's trauma center, one part of the hospital which had consistently gained praise for the good job it did?
And what was their excuse for closing 11 of the county's 18 clinics three years ago? Then again, the supervisors claimed there was no money – until it was revealed that the county's health department ran a 200 million-dollar surplus that year!
The supervisors will vote on Garthwaite's proposal on August 16. Don't hold your breath. Two of the supervisors have already said that they will vote for the closures. And none of the other three has said that he or she will vote against.
It's true that King/Drew, a hospital that was born out of the Watts Rebellion 40 years ago, a hospital that has been serving a poor, working-class community, needs to be saved. It needs to be saved from these bourgeois politicians and their rapacious capitalist buddies, who are after every penny of taxpayer money they can put their hands on.