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Supervisors vote to reopen MLK Hospital

August 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved plans to fully reopen Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Willowbrook.The county and the University of California have been working on the plan to modernize King-Harbor for over a year. The proposal includes opening up a brand new emergency room.

Under the plan, the hospital would be staffed and overseen by the University of California. In turn, renovations and expansion will be paid by the county.

"I think time is of the essence. This board will then be resolute in its message to the University of California. The ball is in your court, let's do the right thing," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

It was standing room only in the boardroom as bus loads of supporters were brought in from south Los Angeles. For more than an hour, speakers from the medical community to those who would benefit from a new King Hospital urged the board to approve the plan for a 120 bed facility that would also include an emergency room.

"Time matters in my business when treating the most critically injured and acutely sick patients," said Capt. David Gillotte, a Los Angeles County paramedic. "Stabbings, shootings, cardiac calls, respiratory calls? time matters. And in fact I've seen the demise of some patients as a result of having to travel farther."

"We're looking for a hospital that starts with 120 beds but continues to grow to meet the needs of this community," said supporter Lark Galloway-Gilliam. "Do not let us down. Do not let this community suffer any longer. Make this happen for south Los Angeles and for the L.A. County overall."

The hospital has provided only outpatient services since August 2007 after negligence and patient deaths led to a partial closure. King-Harbor was formerly known as King-Drew.

The county's plan calls for the hospital to be reopened with inpatient services by late 2012, handling about 30,000 annual emergency visits and 10,000 outpatient visits. The estimated cost of the new state-of-the-art hospital is $350 million.

The UC regents will take up the county's plan at its next meeting on September 15.

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