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December 06, 2004

Pulitzer Alert: Hot on the Trail of LA's 'Killer King'

Yesterday's LAT featured the second installment of a five-part investigation of the problems at LA's troubled Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. This inner city hospital was founded in the wake of the Watts riots in 1965, and has long been a symbol for LA's African American community. Unfortunately, it is also a profoundly dysfunctional institution that wastes prodigious amounts of money while offering low quality -- often life threatening -- health care to the community that it was meant to serve.

The first segment of the report, written by Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein and Mitchell Landsberg and appropriately titled "Deadly errors and politics betray a hospital's promise," described some of the medical horror stories that have occurred at King; including the tragic case of a nine year old girl who was admitted with minor injuries after being struck by a car who died as result of shockingly incompetent medical care, or the 42 year-old woman who was given a blood transfusion with HIV infected blood because nobody bothered to check the test results. Unfortunately, these were hardly isolated incidents.

The second installment analyses King's finances, describing how they spend more per patient than any other public hospital in California, largely because of bad managment. They also humanize the story with specific examples like the $500k per year neurosurgeon who rarely does surgery but routinely files fraudulent time cards overstating his work hours, or the nurse who has had three on-the-job accidents in the last nine years (two involving falling out of a chair) that have cost the hospital $364k in payments for paid "sick leave" and medical expenses.

The articles are well-researched and written, with excellent use of graphics, pictures and web links to original documents. It is fortunate that the LAT has a reputation for being a liberal paper, because the "civil rights leaders" who have co-opted the King/Drew medical center are fond of charging racism whenever this beleaguered institution is criticised. I've only read the first two installments, but based on the story so far, it would appear that the only way to fix King would be to close it down, fire all the employees, and start over again with a new team. However, with powerful political patrons like the execrable congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), it is unlikely that anything will be done anytime soon. Meanwhile, if you ever need medical attention when in LA, do like the members of the LAPD do -- if they are shot or injured on the job they insist on being take to anyplace but "Killer King."

December 6, 2004 at 01:27 PM | Permalink


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