The Spark

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

Watts/Los Angeles:
Stop the attack on King/Drew hospital

Oct 2, 2006

The federal government intends to stop all funding to King/Drew hospital in South Central Los Angeles by the end of the year. The cut amounts to 200 million dollars, or half of the hospital’s budget.

This is a full-fledged assault on vital services that the working-class population in Watts and much of South Central L.A. depends on. And it’s nothing new – this is only the latest phase of the ongoing attack on King/Drew.

For the past three years, citing several cases of patient deaths, the media have put the spotlight on care at King/Drew. Does this hospital really “kill people” as these media reports suggest? Do such serious lapses happen systematically at King/Drew, and more often than at other hospitals?

Perhaps. But if so, then the government should try to fix these problems – not run the hospital into the ground, as the county supervisors have done!

First, they closed King/Drew’s trauma center – one part of the hospital which consistently had been getting good reviews! Then they put King/Drew under the management of Navigant, a private consulting firm. Navigant bled the county treasury of more than 17 million dollars without doing anything to improve the hospital’s situation.

So now the county supervisors say they have only two choices: either to cut services or sell the hospital to a private company – which would result in more layoffs and cuts in services as well, in the name of profit.

Obviously, politicians have not been trying to “save” King/Drew. They have been trying to get rid of it!

And it’s not just King/Drew. L.A.’s entire county-run health-care system is being dismantled. Within the past five years, the county has closed 11 of its 18 clinics, resulting in a loss of hundreds of jobs and health-care facilities serving the county’s over two million uninsured residents. Add to this the 10 emergency rooms that private hospitals have closed within the same time period, and it amounts to a disastrous reduction in health care services available to the working class and poor.

King/Drew was a direct gain of the Watts uprising of 1965; and it has been a symbol for the black community.

Until 1965, there was not one large, modern hospital to serve the health-care needs of the black, working-class population in and near Watts. Forty-one years later, county supervisors want to take Watts and the rest of South Central L.A. back to those times before 1965.

These politicians may think that they can pull this off because the community has not had a major mobilization for almost four decades. But there are still enough people around who remember the Watts uprising, and the changes it brought, from personal experience. Some of them, joined by younger people, have been coming out daily to protest this latest attack on King/Drew. These protests have been relatively small. But the fight that gained King/Drew over four decades ago did not start in 1965 full-blown either.