Jul 2, 2007
King-Harbor, the only publicly-run hospital serving the working-class area of South Los Angeles, is under a serious threat of closure. The federal government threatens to cut King’s funding, which makes up about half the budget of the hospital. The California health department has announced it has started the process of revoking King’s license. And three of the five members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, which is in charge of King, say they favor closing the hospital.
The supervisors say the hospital needs to be closed because, for years, it has not been able to improve the quality of care. They point to cases where patients were endangered, even died.
And it’s true, King well deserves its reputation for providing substandard care – if not worse.
But the well-being of the patients is the last thing the supervisors are worried about, and the proof is that they offer no replacement.
For years, they starved King for funds. They’ve used each new scandal involving King to shut down more of it, along with other parts of the public health system.
Five years ago, the same county supervisors closed 11 of the 18 county clinics, claiming there was not enough money to run them – in a year the county health department actually ran a 225-million-dollar surplus (which, of course, was revealed after all the clinics were closed).
The few remaining ER’s in L.A. are bursting at their seams. King’s ER alone treats nearly 50,000 patients a year – after many long hours of wait, of course. King’s widely publicized problem cases stem from this overcrowding, along with all the other problems coming from lack of funds.
If King is now closed, where are all these patients supposed to go? The supervisors say they are looking for a private company to buy King. But it’s those private companies that have been getting rid of ER’s in the first place – not to mention other services and jobs they cut in the name of profit.
This is the choice authorities offer – accept substandard, often murderous care, or get no care at all.
It’s the only choice that a medical system run with the aim of profit can imagine.