Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who Could Have Imagined?

Angelenos recently learned that willful government stupidity is not limited to the federal and state levels. Local governments are just as capable of being shortsighted and mean spirited when it comes to providing services to the poor and vulnerable. The latest revelation has come with the discovery that the new Los Angeles County-USC medical Center, opened in November, 2008, was built to hold fewer beds than the one it replaced, and that mistake is costing money and lives.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Even before the doors opened on the $1.02-billion Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center many observers warned that the new hospital was too small. Now, more than a year and a half of experience appears to confirm it. ...

...County- USC officials have increased patient transfers to other hospitals. Despite more than 2,000 such transfers since the November 2008 move into a building with 224 fewer beds, chronic, severe overcrowding is routine at the county's flagship public hospital. Few long-term options to relieve the burden are available.

Last month, the hospital's emergency room was overcrowded about 80% of the time, with conditions considered severe or dangerous for half of the month, according to the county's own standards. ...

...health department officials, physician and hospital trade groups and independent consultants all urged that the new hospital be built to hold 750 beds. Advocates said that capacity was needed to allow the county to provide life-saving care to anyone unable to afford it, as required by California law.

The new hospital was to replace one which had been damaged in the Northridge earthquake because the "fixes" after that disaster took place were no longer holding the old place together. Unfortunately, several factors were in play at the time the new hospital was being considered by the County Board of Supervisors. That august body was having budget problems at the time, and doing a real replacement -- bed for bed -- was deemed too expensive. The facts that the population of the county was increasing, as were the numbers of uninsured, weren't given much priority.

Additionally, the supervisor who was pushing hardest for the new hospital, Gloria Molina, was beginning to aggravate the rest of the Board by her strident and "hardball" advocacy for the poor in her district and around the county. The "fiscally prudent" supervisors found a way to push back the pushy broad, and push back they did. As a result, the ER and hospital are dangerously overcrowded and patients are slipping through the cracks and out the door feet first.

Because times are are even worse now than they were when the hospital was being planned, a fix doesn't seem imminent or even possible:

County health officials cannot say whether transferring out indigent patients costs the county more than if it had built a 750-bed hospital. Schunhoff said the county has hired a consultant to determine whether the county's hospitals are at an appropriate size.

Molina said she believes the only long-term solution is to expand County-USC. But she said, "I don't think we would have the money."

The health department faces a nearly $600-million deficit unless it can secure more federal funding. It is still working to reopen an emergency room and inpatient services in Willowbrook, at the site of the former Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.

That's the ticket: hire a consultant and pay a lot of money to find out that the County Board of Supervisors screwed up a few years ago when it decided to build a smaller hospital for the indigent.

Heckuva job, fellas.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

but, but, but..., if you didn't coddle those damn illegals with health care the county wouldn't be deficit and a larger hospital wouldn't be needed.

(snark; unfortunately I know several people who would actually say this.)


6:32 AM  

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